Jrue Holiday posted 20 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds in his return to the Wells Fargo Center, a 121-105 Pelicans win over the Sixers. (USA Today Images)
Jrue Holiday said it was “awkward.” That’s how he described the draft-night phone call informing him that he’d been traded from the Sixers to the Pelicans.
It was just a few months after he made his first All-Star game. It was just a few weeks before he tried out for the U.S. Olympic team. It was just a few days before he got married.
Awkward. Yeah. That about sums it up.
“I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know it was coming,” Holiday said. “After you get off [the phone call], you’re kinda like, ‘Wait, what just happened?’ I guess awkward is kind of the word.”
Holiday returned to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday. For the first time in his NBA career, he was on the visitors’ bench wearing the visitors’ uniform. He said he’d been in the building countless times before, but he’d never been in the visitors' locker room. He said it was “weird.”
Weird. Yeah. That works too.
It was that kind of night -- the new-look Sixers moving forward without their old (but still young) point guard. About that: the old (but still young) point guard looked pretty good. So did his new team.
Pelicans 121, Sixers 105 (see Instant Replay).
Holiday didn’t mess around. He didn’t have a triple-double -- but he came close. Holiday had 20 points (on 8 for 13 shooting), 13 assists, seven rebounds, three steals and just one turnover (see 6 observations).
“It was fun, being back here,” Holiday said. “The crowd showed me a little bit of love. I didn’t hear too many boos. That’s a little surprising. But it was definitely a good thing.
“I think we just ran through our sets hard. Everybody on their team is pretty tall. We had to box out the guards, because they go to the rim. Box out the bigs. Honestly, we just tried to get into them defensively. And then in the second quarter, we kind of strided out on fast-break points.”
The Pelicans had 25 fast-break points. The Sixers had six. It was one of many areas in which New Orleans outplayed the hosts.
The Sixers shot just 42.9 percent from the foul line (9 of 21) and they committed 19 turnovers. Brett Brown mentioned that the turnovers obviously didn’t help. And when asked why free throws were such a problem, Brown said: “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
“They’re a good team,” Brown said about the Pelicans. “They’re a hard team for us to guard. I think, at times, when you try to extend the defense and press, they went through it and they had success at the back end when they went through the press. I think some of it was just poor defense where we’re tired of guarding our man and our ability to have some sort of presence at the rim didn’t exist.”
That had a lot to do with New Orleans forward Anthony Davis, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks. Davis' rebounds represented 25 percent of his team’s total.
The Sixers were paced by Tony Wroten, who scored 24 points off the bench. Evan Turner added 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Thaddeus Young had a game-high 12 rebounds to go with 15 points. And Spencer Hawes, who was dealing with a knee injury, returned to the lineup. Hawes had 12 points (including two three-pointers) and nine rebounds.
Despite the fact that the Sixers played better on Friday than they did in the season’s first outing against the Pelicans, New Orleans still beat them without much trouble. The Sixers have lost 11 of their last 14 games.
“We said from Day 1, as this thing unfolds, we’re going to take some hits and it’s going to be a test,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a test for the city. It’s going to be a test for the team. We have forecasted this from Day 1. It’s my job to make sure we keep everybody focused in relation to what we’re trying to accomplish here -- and that’s hard. It’s easy for me to sit up here and talk about it, [but] it’s hard. It’s my job. And here I am.
“I’m going to do what I believe needs to be done with a group I really like coaching. They’re young and they make mistakes and it gets deflating at times. And this is going to be part of the process from time to time. And we’re going to have to be smart with it. And it’s going to have to start with me.”