The New Orleans Pelicans had a great season, with and without DeMarcus Cousins. At the beginning of the season, many thoughts of the Pelicans as big threats in the Western Conference until Cousins tore his Achilles. Most of the hope was lost immediately, but Anthony Davis did everything in his power to keep his team in the playoff race. Whether they needed 40+ points or great defense, Davis did it all and it got them to a first-round matchup with the Portland TrailBlazers.
While Anthony Davis has been absolutely amazing all year, his play has caused some of his teammates to be overlooked. Mainly the backcourt, which consists of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. These two have had great seasons and more importantly, they were the difference in game one. Holiday had a key block to end the game and had a few huge defensive stops/plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Proving once again why he deserves to be on an All-Defensive team this year. He made every shot for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum a contested one whenever he guarded them. His defense playing a big part in why neither of them could get it going for the entirety of the game (especially the first half). While no one should expect Portland’s backcourt to shoot that poorly again, Jrue Holiday is going to continue to make them take difficult shots.
Now Rajon Rondo, on the other hand, is a completely different monster in the playoffs, having 17 assists in game one of the series. We all know what he is capable of from his time in Boston and even in Chicago last year, but for some reason, he continues to get slept on. Alvin Gentry (Head Coach) said Rondo is the smartest player he has ever coached. Rajon Rondo has a tremendous basketball IQ and has become a great decision maker. Why this is so important to New Orleans is because decision making is something Jrue Holiday has struggled with. When Rondo takes over those responsibilities it maximizes what Holiday is able to do scoring the ball and on defense. Rondo himself is also a solid defender with his length he can create steals and deflections at a high rate. The Pelicans backcourt seems to be the ideal matchup to slow down Portland’s guards.
With all that being said don’t be surprised if Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum have huge games in this series. Even when they are played tight all game these are two extremely good shot makers. What the Pelicans did all of game one was force those two to pass or take difficult shots, and that is how they must continue to play.
With a talent like Anthony Davis on your team, it can make it very easy to forget about other players on the roster. This is the series where the guards in New Orleans can prove that Davis isn’t the only notable player on this team. If this play is maintained from Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo the New Orleans Pelicans will make it out of the first round for the first time in 10 years. Whether the Pelicans guards will keep it up remains to be seen, all we know for sure is we are in for one hell of a series.
Image Via USA Toady, “ForTheWin”.