Home Sports 2024 NBA Finals: Jrue Holiday does a little bit of everything as Boston grabs 2-0 series lead

2024 NBA Finals: Jrue Holiday does a little bit of everything as Boston grabs 2-0 series lead

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 9: Jrue Holiday #4 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against PJ Washington #25 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter of game two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 9 2024 in Boston. Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: The user expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading or using this photograph, the user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Peter Casey - Pool/Getty Images)

BOSTON – If the rest of the league is left regretting two games in the NBA Finals, it’s a question the Milwaukee Bucks must ask themselves daily: How did we let the Boston Celtics acquire Jrue Holiday?

He was briefly available from the Portland Trail Blazers, when the Bucks passed on him in favor of Damian Lillard, and the Celtics pounced, trading Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III and a pair of first-round picks on the eve of camp. training. Nine months later, Holiday is a leading candidate for Finals MVP.

Two days shy of his 34th birthday, Holiday recorded team-highs of 26 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday night. He made 11 of his 14 shots. Defensively, he faced Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić late, wearing them both down. He did it all in a 105-98 victory against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, giving Boston a 2-0 series lead.

“I credit him with the win tonight,” Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown said.

Jrue Holiday of the Boston Celtics shoots against PJ Washington of the Mavericks during the second quarter of Game 2 of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 9, 2024 in Boston. (Photo by Peter Casey – Pool/Getty Images)

Jayson Tatum was the first to welcome Holiday to a team that had reached this stage two years earlier. Everyone else soon followed his example. The Celtics all credit Holiday’s selflessness — his willingness to accept a role smaller than his height — for setting a tone that permeates the locker room. Beat anything.

“He could have easily walked in and said, ‘I’m Jrue Holiday,'” said Celtics teammate Derrick White, who made the game-saving block on Sunday, “and I would have said, ‘Yeah, you’re “Jrue Holiday.” – 100%.”

Instead, there was no ego, and in its place are championship habits. Holiday was Milwaukee’s point guard and the primary ball stopper on a starting team. In Boston, he leaves point guard duties to White. He defers to Tatum and Brown, whom he calls “superstars.” Some nights he takes a backseat to Kristaps Porziņģis. Defensively, he guards every position, as does Marcus Smart, the man he eventually replaced in Boston.

“I think when you sacrifice together and do something together,” Holiday said, “it brings you closer together.”

Again: How did every other NBA team let that happen? The Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers were among the top competitors for Holiday’s services, and both would have benefited greatly from his presence. No one in Boston wanted to see him land on the Miami Heat. Every contender needed Jrue Holiday, and none of them stopped him from joining a Celtics team he needed exactly. him.

“Jrue is a great teammate, nothing less,” Brown said. “He’s brought a championship pedigree to our team. So we don’t question anything Jrue says. He just is who he is. He has that demeanor, that killer mentality, and we respect that. He’s a great teammate, and he’s just a honor to play alongside him.”

What you saw in Game 2 was smart basketball: Jrue Holiday basketball. The Mavericks tried to hide Irving on Holiday, so the Celtics guard took him to the dunker spot. There he amplified the offense twice as much. Irving couldn’t protect the rim as a help defender, and Holiday reveled in Tatum’s passes. Six of Tatum’s game-high 12 assists found Holiday for 13 of his 26 points. Here’s how the Celtics made a game out of a night in which they missed their first eight 3-point attempts and ended up going 10 of 39 from distance.

“I know sometimes when I’m driving and I might get stuck, I need someone to move with me or be in space and in my vision,” Holiday said, describing how he plays opposite Tatum. “So I think, for the most part, I’m just trying to stay in front of him, give him a good start. He’s been making great reads.”

Well, that and a defense that held Dallas to 70 points in the final three quarters. Holiday has defended Irving and Dončić for 15 minutes of this series, according to NBA tracking data. They have scored 13 points on 13 shots in that span, and the Mavs are scoring 84 points per 100 possessions. essentially the worst offense in modern NBA history – every time Holiday defends one of his two best players.

“That experience, that championship DNA, that you hear about all the time,” White said, effusive in his praise of Holiday. “You really don’t know what it takes until you do it. The moment he came to our team in training camp, he had that presence. He just knows how to win.”

If there was one sequence on Sunday that summed up what Holiday means to the Celtics, it’s this one:

The Mavericks had a chance to cut into Boston’s eight-point lead with four minutes left. Holiday, defending Dallas forward PJ Washington, deflected a pass in the defensive zone. He passed to Dončić, who only had a moment to avoid an eight-second violation. Holiday forced a bad pass, which White intercepted and returned to Holiday, who launched a dagger three-pointer. On the next possession, Holiday forced an Irving miss, grabbed an offensive rebound at the other end and found White for another 3-pointer.

The game was almost over and the Mavericks barely knew what hit them. It was vacation. He hit them…repeatedly. With skillful layup after skillful layup, a pair of three-pointers, three assists, a block, a steal, a little bit of everything.

This is what Jrue Holiday does, a little bit of everything, and it’s all a luxury for a team that had no idea he would be available until the start of the preseason. What would these Celtics be without Holiday?

“It’s a good thing we don’t have to find out,” Tatum said. “We’re very, very lucky to have him.”

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