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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard loses control of the ball as New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday defends during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Portland, Ore. New Orleans won 97-95. (AP Photo/Randy L. Rasmussen) ORG XMIT: ORRR114

Randy L. Rasmussen
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PORTLAND — Jrue Holiday was the No. 1 trending topic nationwide on Twitter late Saturday night.

Folks across the country were finally starting to take notice of what Alvin Gentry has been preaching all season long.

Fans back home in New Orleans, particularly those who questioned whether Holiday was worth the hefty contract he signed in July, hopefully took notice too.

Holiday looked worth the five-year, $126 million deal he signed to remain with the Pelicans.

For accounting purposes, that's $63 million for what he does on offense end and another $63 million for what he brings to the table on defense.

His blocked shot late sealed the 97-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, helping the Pelicans steal Game 1 and get the only road win on the first day of the NBA playoffs. In a 36-second span in the last minute of the game, Holiday got a steal, defended Damian Lillard on a shot he missed, then had the block.

"As far as two-way players and with (San Antonio's) Kawhi Leonard not dressed out playing, I don't know if there is a better two-way player in the game," Gentry said. "We ask him to try to get 20 points every night, and we also ask him to guard the best perimeter player on the other team regardless of the size or who it is."

If Anthony Davis is the Pelicans' Michael Jordan, Holiday is Scottie Pippen, a complementary sidekick who gives the Pelicans the reliable 1-2 punch that has been a big part of the team's success.

Holiday finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks, including the one on Pat Connaughton in the waning seconds.

"I take pride in my defense, especially guarding all these great guards," Holiday said. "That's the way we play the game. It's fun, but it's tough."

Holiday had a similar block against Connaughton in the last regular-season meeting between the Pelicans and the Blazers. Gentry showed his team a clip of that play before the game as an example of the kind of game-winning plays it would take to win.

For Holiday, it was his first playoff win since 2012, when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers. Holiday was an All-Star the following year before being traded to the Pelicans in 2014.

Holiday played in his 237th game in a Pelicans' uniform Saturday night.

None of the previous 236 will be remembered quite like this one, which gave the franchise its first playoff win since 2011.

It was a crowning moment of sorts for Holiday.

Injuries plagued him his first two seasons in New Orleans.

Then last season, he missed the start of the season taking care of his wife, who had surgery for a brain tumor.

And there was inconsistent play at times as well. 

Holiday persevered, rising above adversity and criticism to put together his best statistical season yet. He played in a career-best 81 games, averaging a career-high 19 points and 4.5 rebounds.

The rest of the country took notice Saturday night.

Not that Holiday cares much about that.

"I feel like my team appreciates me," Holiday said. "That's all that really matters. They tell me all the time how much I mean to them."

His blocked shot reminded everybody else.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.

This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.

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