Often we see the Pelicans setting the tone offensively, forcing their opponent to play at a fast pace. But in Saturday's Game 1 victory over the Trail Blazers, they set the first half tone with their defense, holding Portland to just 32 percent from the field, and 18 percent from outside the arc. Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum were non-factors.
"I don't know if you can do a better job on those two guards than Jrue and those guys did. I think they ended up 13-for-41 or something like that. If you can have those guys do that, then you've done a great job on them," said Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry.
While they dominated the first half defensively though, the Pelicans theme of the second half was weathering the storm. The Blazers made their run, and even had a few possessions late to tie the game or take the lead. But Jrue Holiday, who values game-winning stops just as much as game-winning shots, delivered big time.
"I was hyped as you can see. Again, 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. To be able to get a win on the road is a great feeling," said guard Holiday.
"As far as a two-way player right now, with Kawhi Leonard not dressed out and playing, I don't know if there's a better two-way player in the game. We ask him to try and get 20 points for us every night. We also ask him to try to guard the best perimeter player on the other team, regardless of the size or who it is," said Gentry.
The pressure they put on Portland's guards turned the tide, but they'll need a duplicate performance in Game 2. Because you can bet that after losing their home court advantage, the Trail Blazers will come out that much hungrier to even the series on Tuesday.
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