Pelicans Punch Portland For Playoff Win
Anthony Davis can scratch one blemish off his superstar resume. Saturday night in Portland, he won his first playoff game, leading the New Orleans Pelicans past the Trail Blazers 97-95.
It ended close, but wasn't a close game throughout.
Shooting ice cold in the first few minutes of the game, New Orleans continued to push the pace, found their offensive rhythm, running past Portland with big offensive games from Davis (35 points), Nikola Mirotić (16 points) and Jrue Holiday (21 points).
"It was huge (to win). There's a lot of things we can get better at," said Davis after the win. "I think we played well overall. We did a great job defensively on Dame (Damian Lillard) and C.J. (McCollum). We've gotta rebound the ball a little better, but we got the win. That's all that matters."
After building a 19 point second half lead, the Trail Blazers went on a run, cutting the lead to 1 late, but missed two opportunities to take the lead.
Holiday's defense was superb, forcing a steal on a breakaway Portland fast break during the final moments, then blocking a shot with seconds left in regulation.
"I was hyped," said Holiday of the block. "I take pride in my defense. Especially guarding all these great guards. That's why we play the game. It's fun, but it's tough and it's hard. To be able to get a win on the road is a great feeling."
Holiday was asked in postgame if he felt he was underappreciated around the league, and responded adamantly explaining how much his team appreciates him, and his head coach was applauding his play as well.
"As far as a 2 way player right now, with Kawhi Leonard not dressed out and playing, I don't know if there's a better 2 way player in the game (than Holiday)," said Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry. "We ask him to try and get 20 points for us every night and we ask him to guard the best perimeter player."
Holiday drew the assignment of All-Star Damian Lillard, holding him to 6-23 from the field, 18 points, and only 3 in the first half.
The postseason victory is the first for the Pelicans franchise since April 24, 2011, when Chris Paul led the New Orleans Hornets past the L.A. Lakers.
New Orleans made the playoffs in 2015, but were swept by the #1 seeded Golden State Warriors 4-0 in the first round.
Veteran Rajon Rondo, with a championship ring and plenty of playoff pedigree, kept the Pelicans focused and set every time the Blazers threatened to capture the lead.
"He was up all night watching film," said Davis of Rondo. "Even when they were calling plays out tonight, he was telling us what it was, our version, before they even got a chance to run it."
Rondo took only 9 shots, but dominated the game in several ways, finishing with 17 assists and 8 rebounds.
With a 1-0 lead, the Pelicans will attempt to steal another game in Portland on Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 9:30.