Los Angeles native Jrue Holiday is in his hometown for a somewhat extended in-season stay, with the New Orleans Pelicans playing back-to-back games against the Clippers and Lakers.
Call it an early Christmas visit or a late Thanksgiving one, with the Pelicans having a day off after Thursday night’s loss at Golden State before playing the Clippers (13-5).
However, Holiday has other pressing matters. After impacting the game with his defense against Oklahoma City All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook in the Pelicans’ big win on Tuesday night at the Smoothie King Center, Holiday faced the Warriors’ Stephen Curry on Thursday.
On Friday night, he will go against the Clippers’ Chris Paul, considered the best point guard in the world.
“From Russ to Steph Curry to Chris Paul to (the Lakers’) Jeremy Lin,” Holiday said. “But that’s the Western Conference for you.
“Actually, it’s the NBA. The point guard spot is loaded. Last week, it was (Atlanta’s) Jeff Teague and (Washington’s) John Wall in a back-to-back. That’s just how it is.”
The Pelicans (8-9) would like to salvage this three-game road trip and return home with a winning record. They went 2-2 in their first Western road trip of the season, Nov. 17-22, with the first game at Portland slipping through their fingers in the fourth quarter.
Facing Paul will be a different type of challenge than going up against Curry. Curry had 19 points and 11 assists against the Pelicans, but his biggest threat is from the outside, where he can light up a 3-point line like Rodeo Drive decorated during the Christmas holidays.
Paul is an even bigger threat because of his penchant for getting in the lane. Last season, he led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio, which is a standard measure of a point guard’s efficiency. He is averaging 9.5 assists this season, and is the first player since turnovers began being recorded in 1977 to have as many as 161 assists and as few as 26 turnovers in the first 17 games.
He has an assist-to-turnover ratio of an incredible 6.19 to 1. Anything better than 3 to 1 is considered good. Limiting Paul’s forays into the lane, where he can throw bounce passes and lobs for dunks to the high-leaping duo of power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan, is difficult.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams said league rules on the way defense is permitted now makes it tougher to defend quick point guards driving to the basket.
“With the rules now, you have to just make it tough on guys,” Williams said. “That’s why we love Jrue so much, because he has the ability to use his strength to keep you out of the lane. He’s big, so he can contest shots.”
The Pelicans will have to make shots to keep the Clippers out of transition, where they are particularly proficient. Anthony Davis, who scored 30 points on 14-of-19 shooting against Golden Sate, will be in a matchup of two of the game’s best young power forwards in facing Griffin.
Holiday said Davis, who is second in the league in scoring at 25.2 points per game, should have had an even more impressive game against Golden State.
“We need to move the ball better and look to Anthony Davis more,” he said. “Especially when we get in trouble, he is our guy. So, we need to get him the ball and more looks.”
On Sunday, the Pelicans will face the Lakers for the second time. New Orleans won the matchup at the Smoothie King Center 109-102 on Nov. 12. Williams, however, was not pleased that the Lakers trimmed a 104-84 lead with 5:40 remaining to single digits.
The Lakers were without small forward Nick Young, who had a right thumb injury. Since his return, he has averaged 14.9 points. Young averaged 18.8 points off the bench last season. Since he returned, the Lakers have gone 4-5 heading into Friday’s game after starting the season 1-9.
The Pelicans signed guard Gal Mekel on Friday. Mekel, 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds, appeared in 31 games (one start) last season with the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 2.4 points and 2.0 assists. He will wear No. 24 and is set to be available for Saturday’s game. … Pelicans guard Russ Smith, who played in just three games this season, was assigned by the team to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the NBA Developmental League. Smith, a 6-foot, 185-pound rookie, averaged 5.0 points and 1.2 assists. He was drafted with the 47th pick in the 2014 NBA draft.