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Gentry: Holiday among the best two-way players

Gentry: Holiday among the best two-way players

9:43 AM ETMark SchwarzESPN Reporter CloseWhen New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry thinks about the best two-way players in the NBA, he thinks about a guy on his own roster. He thi…

Gentry: Holiday among the best two-way players

9:43 AM ET
  • Mark SchwarzESPN Reporter Close

When New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry thinks about the best two-way players in the NBA, he thinks about a guy on his own roster. He thinks about a player who has been a force at both ends in the Pelicans' two playoff victories at Portland.

He thinks about Jrue Holiday.

"I may be a bit biased," Gentry conceded, "but if you can tell me a better two-way player in the league right now, I'm willing to listen. But what we ask him to do and the things we ask him to do offensively, he was just great tonight."

Holiday's 33 points Tuesday were a game high. He scored a career-best 20 of those in the restricted area. Holiday drained 14 of his 24 shots and dished out nine assists, leading th e Pelicans to a 111-102 victory that gave the team a commanding 2-0 lead as their first-round playoff series shifts to New Orleans for Game 3 on Thursday.

"He's playing extremely well," Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. "We've got to limit some of his opportunities going forward."

"Coming off that pick-and-roll, he's able to get those floaters and get to the rim," said Portland All-Star Damian Lillard, who finished with 17 points on the night. "He's impacting the game on both ends of the floor."

Holiday has arguably done his most effective work at the defensive end against Portland's best player. He held Lillard to 0-for-4 shooting, zero points and two turnovers as a primary defender in Game 2. Lillard is now 0-for-8, and the Blazers are 6-for-24 (25 percent) against Holiday in the series.

"In my opinion, I think he's one of the best defenders out there on the perimeter," said Lilla rd, who typically has his way with most NBA defenses but has yet to find his shot in this series. "He's just playing well. He's big and crafty. He's impacting the game on both ends of the floor."

McCollum said he is not surprised by the way Holiday has harassed Portland's potent pair.

"He's a very good player," McCollum said. "I said it coming into this series: He doesn't get a lot of credit because he's playing with [Pelicans big man Anthony Davis], and I think you're starting to see how good he truly is on both ends of the floor."

Even his Pelicans teammates have had to cope with Holiday's suffocating defense.

"He's a helluva player -- especially both ways," said Holiday's backcourt mate, Rajon Rondo. "I get better as a player offensively when he checks me in practice."

The Blazers have pick-and-rolled their way to 49 victories and home-court advan tage in the opening round of these playoffs. But they have matched up poorly with a player who has been able to neutralize their most potent weapon. Holiday successfully defended 1,846 pick-and-rolls in the regular season, making him the second-most effective guard who faced a minimum of 1,000, according to Second Spectrum.

"Jrue Holiday has good length," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "He has good strength. He's a smart defender, size, he's experienced, and he's always been a good defender, no matter who he's guarding."

Rondo shook his head when asked why Holiday gets so little credit for his two-way play.

"I think it goes along with his personality," Rondo said. "He's not a guy that talks, even though he's shown more emotions in this playoffs as of late, but he flies under the radar. He's playing in a small market the last couple of years."

Those who know him best say Holiday has s hown more personality in this series than anyone can remember. He erupted with joy after a game-saving block against Pat Connaughton in the closing seconds of Game 1. He has conducted a running dialogue with Portland fans seated near courtside.

"I was just having friendly conversation with some of the fans," Holiday said, downplaying the banter. "That was really it, just going back and forth. I feel like that's what they paid for -- for us to communicate and talk to them -- so that's what I was doing."

"It's been fun getting to know Jrue this year," Rondo said. "He's a great person, even better person off the court than he is on the court."

Teammates say Holiday is in a good place right now. They know that life was cruel when his wife, Lauren, was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor while she was five months pregnant in June 2016.

Now he has a healthy wife and a healthy daughter named Jrue Tyler Holi day. Everyone calls her J.T.

"It's been great," Davis said of his teammate. "All he wants to do is play basketball, and now that everything that was going on with him is squared away and doing fine, he's just focused on playing, and he's playing at a high level."

With his family in a good spot, Holiday has been able to focus on his performance on the court.

"My family's the most important thing to me, and with them being OK, I can come back to the team freely and be able to help them out now,'' he said. "It's been fun. I feel like my teammates and the organization definitely helped me out coming back from things with my family and even the injuries, with being able to play and being able to perform at the peak I'm performing.''

Source: Google News US Sports | Netizen 24 United States

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