NBA

Jrue Holiday plays a worthy sidekick to Anthony Davis and other takeaways from the first day of the NBA playoffs

Jay Asser 18:42 15/04/2018
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Jrue Holiday scored 21 points and played terrific defence in New Orleans' Game 1 win.

The first day of the NBA playoffs delivered some compelling action, even if only one game was competitive in the final moments.

The Golden State Warriors looked locked in as they began their title defence, while the Toronto Raptors got the monkey off their back by ending a nine-game losing streak in series openers and the New Orleans Pelicans stole one on the road.

Here are takeaways from Game 1 of three of the four series that took place on Saturday, beginning with the only upset on day one.

The Brow gets help

The Portland-New Orleans series was billed as match-up between two stars and MVP candidates, but Anthony Davis wasn’t the only Pelican to outshine Damian Lillard in the opener.

Davis did a lot of the heavy lifting by registering 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting – to go with 14 rebounds, four blocks and two steals – but Jrue Holiday was in many ways the difference-maker in the 97-95 win.

Often underrated because of how deep the point guard position is in the NBA, Holiday is one of the best two-way players in the league thanks to his defensive prowess, which was on fully display in the opener.

His 21 points were much-needed, but his biggest contribution came on the other end of the floor where he hounded both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combined for 37 points on just 13-of-41 shooting after entering the series averaging 48.3.

Holiday’s defence was crucial down the stretch as he swiped the ball away from McCollum before swatting Pat Connaughton to preserve a 3-point lead in the final seconds.

If he can consistently be this kind of a sidekick to Davis in the playoffs, the Pelicans will make some noise.

Raptors’ reinforcements

One of Toronto’s most prominent advantages in the regular season was expected to be somewhat neutralised in the playoffs, but Game 1 showed the strength of their bench will continue to play a role.

Even with sixth man Fred VanVleet out to a shoulder injury, Toronto’s reserves were instrumental in the 114-106 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan weren’t at their best and were mostly outplayed by John Wall and Bradley Beal, but the Raptors’ bench tilted the scales by outscoring Washington’s second unit by a 42-30 margin.

Delon Wright stepped into VanVleet’s role perfectly to score an efficient 18 points in 25 minutes, while C.J. Miles hit four 3-pointers to chip in 12.

The Wizards were fortunate to get 14 points from Mike Scott, but none of the other reserves did much of anything on offence to alleviate the burden on the starters.

There will probably come a time when Toronto coach Dwane Casey has to shorten the rotations, but the formula that led to so much success in the regular season is still working right now.

Wright

Warriors’ long arm of the law

With all the offensive talent and shooting Golden State possess, it can be easy to forget just how stifling they can be on the other end of the floor.

In their comfortable 113-92 win over San Antonio in Game 1, the Warriors reminded that when they want to, they can make life hell for opposing offences – especially ones with as little firepower as the Spurs currently have.

The by-product of Stephen Curry still being out with a knee injury is Golden State trotting out a starting lineup of Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and JaVale McGee. The shortest player of the group is Iguodala at 6-foot-6, which meant San Antonio had to deal with long limb after long limb in their pursuit to get anywhere near the basket.

As expected, it was a mighty struggle for the Spurs as they had to work tirelessly just to produce a good shot. With Kawhi Leonard remaining mysteriously sidelined, the only fail-safe San Antonio have is to dump the ball into the mid-post for LaMarcus Aldridge and hope his jumper is falling.

Against the Warriors though, that might not even win you a game.

Durant

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