Pelicans thriving with PG Holiday back
ATLANTA — New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry doesn't want to overwork Jrue Holiday as he gets back in full game shape, but there is no question about what the point guard's impact has already been for the Pelicans.
New Orleans was 2-10 without Holiday. They are 2-0 with him going into Tuesday's game against the Hawks in Atlanta.
Holiday, who had been away from the Pelicans during his wife's health crisis, had 21 points and seven assists in 23 minutes in his first game Friday against Portland, then came back Saturday with 22 points and nine assists in 30 minutes of the overtime victory against Charlotte.
Anthony Davis, who averages 31.7 points and 11.3 rebounds, scored 38 against the Hornets, including the basket that forced overtime and eight points in the extra period. The Pelicans, though, need Holiday, as their start to the season showed.
“Huge difference, offensively and defensively,” said Davis, who also had 16 rebounds against the Hornets. “He brings a presence to the team, energy and effort. When he is on the floor, we play very well.”
While the Pelicans, who started the season 0-8, have their first winning streak, the Hawks have lost two in a row after a six-game winning streak.
Atlanta, which is still atop the Southeast Division at 9-4, lost at Charlotte on Friday, when Dwight Howard was ejected for a fourth-quarter elbow, and on Sunday at New York when Dennis Schroder had his worst game since taking over this season as the starting point guard.
Howard had 18 points and 18 rebounds against the Knicks, but Schroder was pulled for good in the third quarter after missing all eight of his shots.
“Just trying to find something at the point guard spot that would give us a better chance,” coach Mike Budenholzer said of Schroder's benching.
“Guys are going to struggle. There are 82 games in a season,” said Paul Millsap, who led the Hawks with 19 points in New York.
Schroder will need to bounce back against New Orleans, when he will be matched up with Holiday.
Despite his long absence from the team, Holiday made 17 of 31 shots in his first two games, including 4 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc.
He was also playing for the first time wearing goggles to protect an orbital bone that was fractured last season, ending his year.
Holiday was with his wife, former soccer star Lauren, in North Carolina as she gave birth and then had surgery to remove a brain tumor.
“I think it was just a good time to come back,” said Holiday, who came off the bench in his first two games.
Atlanta was 2-0 last year against New Orleans but Davis, who scored 43 points in the first meeting, and Holiday missed the second contest.
The game against the Pelicans is the only one at home in an eight-game stretch for the Hawks. They play at Indiana on Wednesday, then head to the West Coast for four games.
Thabo Sefolosha, a key part of the Atlanta bench, missed the past three games with a knee sprain but should be available against the Pelicans.
Buddy Hield, taken sixth overall in the draft, averaged 9.2 points in 20 minutes to start the season with New Orleans but played just 13 minutes combined in the Pelicans' weekend victories.
Langston Galloway got the extra time and responded, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring 23 points against Charlotte.