Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jrue Holiday steps up for struggling Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown in Celtics’ Game 2 win

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BOSTON — Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday deflected a pass in the backcourt, and in haste to get the ball over halfcourt before an eight-second violation, Dallas Mavericks star guard threw a bad pass that Derrick White intercepted.

White saved the basketball to Holiday who passed to Al Horford who passed it back to Holiday for a 3-pointer − part of quick 6-0 run that gave Boston a 14-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

It was that kind of game for Holiday, who did everything incredibly well for the Celtics in their 105-98 victory against the Mavs on Sunday in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

“I’m a utility guy,” Holiday said. “I’ll do whatever. I’m here to win. I feel like they brought me here to win, and I’ll do my best to do that.”

Holiday had a team-high 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting and also had 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. He hit 2-for-4 3-pointers and made his four free throw attempts.

He is the first guard to have at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and shoot 75% from the field in a Finals game.

“Jrue has been an example of just excellence,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “Since he’s been here, his role has been different from what it was the last few years on Milwaukee, and he’s been able to adapt. Not a lot of guys can do that, be versatile, play different roles and different styles and still have an effect on the game.

“They wanted to emphasize loading up, making us make the right reads over and over again, and Jrue had a lot of opportunities, and he took advantage. He’s just a hell of a player, hell of a person, great teammate. I credit the victory to him tonight. He played well.”

Jayson Tatum struggled with his shot, and Brown and Tatum were a combined 2-for-12 on 3-pointers. It’s difficult for most teams to overcome that kind of shooting from their two best players. But the Celtics have multiple options, including Holiday.

Holiday, who signed a four-year, $135 million extension with Boston in April, had 11 of his 17 points in the second quarter, added six in the third and his late 3-pointer in the fourth was necessary.

He has been vital to Boston’s success this season. Holiday was an early fall acquisition − just before training camps opened. He was set to start another season with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Bucks traded for Damian Lillard, making Holiday expendable.

Well, expendable to the Bucks. The Celtics pounced on the trade, which gave the Celtics championship experience (Holiday won a title with Milwaukee in 2021), All-Defense guard, capable scorer and locker room leader.

“Jrue is a great teammate, nothing short of that,” Brown said. “He’s brought championship pedigree to our team. Nothing Jrue says we question. Jrue, he comes in and he just is who he is. He’s got that demeanor, that killer-like mentality, and we respect it, you know what I mean? He’s a great teammate and it’s just an honor to play next to him.”

In Game 1, another Celtics offseason acquisition, Kristaps Porzingis, had a big game. It’s two additions that have made the Celtics a much more complete team, one that is two victories from winning the franchise’s 18th title.

Before Holiday took questions from reporters, he wanted to clarify comments he made Saturday in which he said he didn’t think Dallas coach Jason Kidd was lying when Kidd called Brown Boston’s best player, which was perceived slight against Tatum.

“I feel like people kind of took that out of context. I’ve been hearing that I prefer JB over JT and that’s not what that was,” Holiday said. “I like to praise my teammates. I like to praise my teammates when they’re playing well, and I feel like that’s what I did my best to do. … I do not prefer one or the other. I prefer both. Both of them are superstars, and it’s being shown out here on the biggest stage in the world.”

Holiday’s star is bright, too, in the Finals.

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