Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. Behind a career and franchise playoff high 47 points Anthony “Brow” Davis led the New Orleans Pelicans to a hard fought win completing the sweep over the Portland Trail Blazers and bringing the first playoff series win to the Big Easy in a decade. Up only two at the half the Pels used a 42 point third quarter in which Davis had 19 to put enough distance between them and the Blazers to fight off another comeback effort.
AD also proved big on the defensive end with three blocks including a crucial swat of an Al-Farouq Aminu three pointer when the game was still in reach with 30 seconds left in the game. On 15 of 24 shooting Davis was clearly unstoppable, he even knocked down a pair of triples but he arguably did his most damage at the foul line nailing 15 of his 17 attempts from the charity stripe. Portland did throw different looks at Davis (seemingly taking a page out of the Pels’ notebook with defending Damian Lillard) but it didn’t matter. Who came got dealt with and left with hurt feelings and most likely a few personal fouls to show for it. As one of the best 10 players in the league (yeah, he’s there y’all) this was the playoff series we all (Portland fans obviously excluded) were hoping for him to have.
2. It takes a bad man to even whiff at having nearly as much impact on this series and specifically this game as Davis has. Dudes and dudettes, Jrue Holiday is that guy. Putting a cap on what has been one of the best playoff performances in this young postseason Holiday Season exploded for 41 points and 8 assists. And once again he made life hell for Dame. Holiday also set the nets ablaze on 15 of 23 shooting and getting to the line 12 times.
Holiday’s backcourt mate Rajon Rondo did his usual dropping more dimes than a clumsy cashier. Rondo finished with 16 assists to go with 7 points and rebounds. He was spectacular at being New Orleans’ catch all passing, rebounding, defending, being an irritant as the game got pretty chippy. There’s a reason we rave about playoff Rondo so much, and that’s because most successful playoff teams have a guy like him but he’s arguably the best at it.
E’Twaun Moore and Nikola “Threekola” Mirotic had solid afternoons as well. Moore finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals hitting half of his shots while playing great help defense. Niko didn’t duplicate this offensive performance from Game 3 when he cracked the Blazers for 30 but his defense down the stretch was very impactful. He still notched a double double with 10 and 11 to go with a pair of steals and three blocks. The bench mob held up for the most part with Solomon Hill the high man with 6 and 4 while Darius Miller and Ian Clark…..well, they didn’t blow anything.
Although this series is over there are still so many questions. Where did this defense come from? Where has this Jrue Holiday been? So Playoff Rondo is really a thing? Where do we rank AD amongst the league’s elite? These will definitely keep me up a few nights but I know for a fact the New Orleans Pelicans are only concerning themselves with one question. Who’s next?
3. Well, you can’t say they didn’t go down without a fight. However, the Portland Trail Blazers were never able to crack the code in this series specifically in this deciding game. The Pels turned in another commanding defensive effort against Damian “Dame Dolla” Lillard holding him to 19 points while limiting his foul shot attempts to only five. Sure, a lot of this can be attributed to Holiday’s relentless harassment but this worked so well because there was a plan around defending him as a team. It was classic remove the head and the body will follow and got damn did it work.
CJ McCollum, fighting until the bitter end did put on one helluva show. CJ kept the Blazers within striking distance with his 38 points on 15 of 22 shooting. Some of this was the byproduct on the commitment to Dame so I think the Pels will live with it but it was spectacular showing nonetheless. Al-Farouq Aminu was big here as well ripping off 27 points and 6 boards canning 5 triples. Before fouling out Jusef Nurkic was a force for them finishing with 18 and 11 and at one point getting the best of Mirotic on nearly every possession. Even Turner did funky Evan Turner things and was helpful on the offensive end finishing with 15 points and 5 assists.
There were plenty of problems that went unsolved here. The obvious Dame issue for starters but I’m more curious about the near absence of a defense that was rated 8th in the regular season. I bring this up because they really missed Mo Harkless here. But even without him the effort should have been better and a scheme should have been made to deal with the few real scorers the Pels have. Portland just didn’t have horses to make up for not having on of their best defenders for large swaths of the series and having their best player locked up. And for a team as talented and well coached as Portland that’s a huge problem that may lead to a pretty uncomfortable summer.