Jrue Holiday is almost free.
During Saturday’s 110-108 win over the Houston Rockets, one of the most noteworthy restrictions saddled on the New Orleans Pelicans point guard was wiped away. Holiday participated in games on consecutive days, without trimming his minutes in either.
It was an emblematic step toward Holiday becoming restriction-free entering 2016.
After missing 90 games over the previous two seasons with a lingering stress reaction in his right leg, Holiday knew he would enter the season with a limited allotment of minutes and would get held out of one game when contests were played on consecutive nights, until he could prove his durability to the team’s medical officials.
Based on his performance against the Rockets, Holiday is ready to take the shackles off.
He checked James Harden for the final five minutes of a tense game, limiting Houston’s All-NBA guard to two field goals in the fourth quarter and not allowing Harden to take over in the situations he typically shines.
“I think he’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the league at the guard position,” forward Anthony Davis said. “I would trust him to defend anybody.”
Even after playing 54 minutes in 54 hours, Holiday said he felt no ill effects on his recovering leg.
“I feel good,” he said. “There are no issues right now.”
Saturday was the Pelicans’ seventh back-to-back of the season and the first Holiday participated fully in both. In November, he combined for 27 minutes in lopsided losses to Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I see playing him as many minutes as they’ll let me,” coach Alvin Gentry said before the game. “I’ll check with the medical guys and, whatever the number is, he’ll pretty much get there.”
And Gentry stood true to his word, making sure Holiday was available down the stretch as the Pelicans forced a pair of turnovers in the final four minutes, highlighted by denying the Rockets on their inbound attempt on the final play, sealing a victory.
On Christmas in Miami, Holiday logged nearly 27 minute and effectively defended Dwyane Wade in the final regulation minutes while making 4 of 9 shots and assisting on two other baskets. But he eclipsed his 25-minute threshold, forcing Gentry to bench Holiday in overtime, allowing Miami to cruise toward a 94-88 victory.
Gentry said he expected Holiday’s lingering minutes restriction would disappear “in the next week or so,” which would allow him to play into the 30-plus minute range, even though he’s coming off the bench.
“I think he is coming along health-wise, but they’ve been really cautious with what he’s done,” Gentry said. “I think he’s really in a good place and he’s really embraced the role of coming off of the bench that I’ve asked him to do. It’s not something easy to do.”
Home vs. road
The Pelicans entered the night averaging 108.8 points per game at home, good enough to rank second in the NBA, trailing only Golden State. It helped them reach a 6-6 record in the Smoothie King Center, despite dropping four of their first five home games.
But when the Pelicans take flight to another destination, the shots simply don’t fall at the same rate. New Orleans averages just 97.6 points per game (No. 23 in the NBA) on the road, sinking the Pelicans to a 3-14 record in unfriendly buildings.
The Rockets set a season-high mark, dropping 41 points in the opening quarter, scoring in every conceivable way.
They punished the Pelicans for particularly sloppy ballhandling, turning eight turnovers into 11 points and swiped five steals.
The Pelicans limited the deficit to eight points thanks to shooting a scalding 75 percent, including 4-for-6 from 3-point territory.
Allowing a 40-point quarter isn’t necessarily new to the Pelicans, who have allowed four of them this season, the previous one in a Dec. 20 win over Denver.
Pelicans reserve center Alexis Ajinca missed two games with a left calf strain but was left off the injury report Saturday. …Eric Gordon scored the Pelicans’ first eight points, part of a 19-point half (and a game-high 29) in which he made all seven of his shots, including five 3-pointers. … Dwight Howard eclipsed 15,000 points in his career, converting a layup in the second quarter to surpass the milestone. … Omer Asik surpassed his season high, scoring 10 points.