No one told Jrue Holiday that the fourth quarter wasn’t his time. He wrested ownership of it away from Damian Lillard, much as he did a crucial offensive rebound that Holiday had no business grabbing. It was the rebound that led to this:
In this Portland–New Orleans series, there shouldn’t be a post-game interview in which the clutch gene is discussed and Lillard doesn’t have the mic. He cultivated his legend based on the final minutes, so much so that he even created a new time zone. And yet, the clocks never changed to Dame Time in Game 2, the Blazers’ second-straight home loss to the Pelicans, 111-102. We were so absorbed watching Holiday begin an early campaign for All-Defense in 2019 that Big Game Dame shrunk into Dame, the other point guard.
He had already struggled in the series before Tuesday, scoring just three points in the first half of Game 1. And while he hit two key shots in the final clip of Game 2, he walked out with as many turnovers (seven) as made shots. While Holiday had a career-playoff-high of 33 points and nine assists (to go with just one turnover), Dame’s highlights will be relegated to the Blazers’ Twitter account.
In last year’s playoffs, Lillard faced an unfair challenge. The Blazers were matched up against the eventual NBA champions in Round 1, and despite his confidence that Portland would beat the Warriors “in six”—why not go full-irrational confidence and say four?—the team really didn’t have a chance. Entering the postseason this year, the Blazers gave the impression that they had a real chance because of Lillard’s commanding second half of the season—his final 25 games were littered with fourth-quarter hot streaks and he averaged 30.5 points per game. That narrative is wilting fast, and the regular season, ultimately, isn’t where players’ reputations are cemented.
The series is 2-0 for the Pelicans, thanks to New Orleans winning the battle of the backcourts both times. Meanwhile, Holiday’s back-to-back performances, and in particular Tuesday’s, have shattered the preconceived notions for those outside Louisiana about his ceiling on both ends of the floor. In both games combined, C.J. McCollum and Lillard have gone 29-for-80 from the field. Holiday, by himself, was five made shots away from equalling that, on about half the attempts: 24-for-44. His triumph only makes Lillard’s absence look comparatively worse.
Lillard’s allure is predicated on his prowess in clutch situations; Big Game Dame’s closing arguments for All-NBA honors came in Portland’s closing minutes. But what’s a nickname if it doesn’t ring true on the biggest stage?