PORTLAND, Ore. — The Pelicans expected to get a much-needed boost in the backcourt Wednesday night with the season debut of point guard Jrue Holiday.
Holiday, making a slow comeback from two surgeries earlier this year to repair a stress fracture in his right tibia, is restricted to 20 minutes a game, and is cleared to play in one of two games in back-to-back situations.
Holiday didn’t play Tuesday against Golden State, but was listed as the starter against Portland. New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said in divvying up Holiday’s minutes, he would likely play half of the first quarter, the final four minutes of the second quarter, with the second half a coach’s decision based on the closeness of the game.
In the case of the season-opening back-to-back, Gentry opted to play Holiday in the second game because of a tough practice earlier this week. That won’t always be the case in future back-to-back situations.
“We will talk to him and see how he feels. All the decisions will be made based on medical ones, not the team we’re playing. That will never have a bearing whatsoever. It’s always based on how he’s feeling,” Gentry said.
New Orleans has five back-to-back games during the next five weeks. The next situation comes Nov. 6-7, with a home game against Atlanta, followed by a game in Dallas.
During the preseason, Holiday played in seven games, averaging 7.9 points and 12.9 minutes per game.
No worries about AD
Anthony Davis shot just 4-of-20 against Golden State, a number that Gentry all but dismissed with the wave of his hand. Gentry thought the Pelicans’ current dearth of players played a role in Davis’ sub-par night.
“I thought he was pressing a little bit, because it’s so important to him. We didn’t have some of the players out there that we normally would have, so he felt like he should do a little more,” Gentry said. “He’s the least of my worries.”
Gentry’s biggest concern coming out of the Golden State opener was defense. The Warriors scored 39 points in the first quarter and 35 in the third. Stephen Curry torched the Pelicans for 40 points, hitting 14 of 26 shots. There were some good defensive aspects, such as forcing 20 Golden State turnovers, but not enough to satisfy Gentry.
“Defensively, we really have to try to take care of business, and I didn’t think we did that (Tuesday),” Gentry said.
Wednesday night, the Pelicans had to go through a second consecutive opening night ceremony on an opponent’s court. This is the first time in four years New Orleans has opened the season on the road.
Gentry smiled when asked if there’s any advantages to opening on the road.
“If you win, yeah. If you don’t win, no,” he said. “Of all the sports, baseball, football, whatever, I would say the home court advantage in the NBA is the most important thing.”
New Orleans plays its home opener Saturday against Orlando.
Forward Dante Cunningham was listed as questionable and forward Luke Babbitt as doubtful for Portland. Gentry said Cunningham would play against the Blazers, but Babbitt (hamstring) is still a little tight and would likely make his season debut Saturday against Orlando.
The Pelicans brought in a five-game losing streak to Portland. The Blazers swept the three-game series last season against New Orleans. The last time the Pelicans won in Portland was Nov. 26, 2010. ... The Blazers had a white-out in their arena for opening night, as each fan had a white “Rip City” T-shirt placed on their seat before the game.