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 the 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 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 advantage 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.
He showed both definite potential and the rawness of a man doing just his fifth game as an analyst and second with his Sunday night partners, Matt Vasgersian and Jessica Mendoza. The trio did an exhibition game together last week.
On Thursday, Rodriguez improved and relaxed as the game went on and, by the ninth, was giving some strong opinions. Rodriguez even went against the modern theory, recommending a bunt, while also second-guessing the Giants outfielders for playing too shallow.
What Rodriguez’s presence brings to the sport’s second-most prestigious booth — after FOX’s World Series crew — is star power. This includes girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, who made a brief TV appearance in a non-speaking role, giving A-Rod a kiss of encouragement between innings.
To reach the level he has as a FOX studio analyst, Rodriguez is going to need to be less rehearsed and more off the cuff during games.