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

In the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks must be wondering how they allowed the Boston Celtics to acquire Jrue Holiday. The Celtics seized the opportunity when Holiday became available from the Portland Trail Blazers, as the Bucks chose Damian Lillard instead. Just before training camp, the Celtics traded Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III, and two first-round draft picks to acquire Holiday. Now, nine months later, Holiday has emerged as a top contender for Finals MVP.

On the eve of his 34th birthday, Holiday delivered an impressive performance in Game 2. He led the team with 26 points and 11 rebounds, shooting an impressive 11 of 14 from the field. Defensively, he successfully defended against Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić in the late stages of the game, wearing them down. Holiday’s contributions were crucial in the Celtics’ 105-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, giving Boston a 2-0 series lead.

Teammate Jaylen Brown credited Holiday for the victory, acknowledging his significant impact on the game.
Jayson Tatum was the first to embrace Holiday on a team that had previously reached this stage two years ago. Soon after, everyone else followed suit. The Celtics attribute Holiday’s selflessness, his willingness to accept a smaller role despite his stature, for establishing a tone that resonates throughout the locker room. The priority is winning.

“He could have easily come in and said, ‘I’m Jrue Holiday,'” remarked Celtics teammate Derrick White, who made the crucial block on Sunday’s game, “and I would’ve agreed, ‘Yes, you are Jrue Holiday — no doubt.'”

However, there was no ego. Instead, championship habits took its place. Holiday, who was Milwaukee’s point guard and primary defensive stopper on a championship-winning team, relinquishes the point guard responsibilities to White in Boston. He defers to Tatum and Brown, whom he regards as “superstars.” Some nights, he takes a backseat to Kristaps Porziņģis. Defensively, he guards every position, much like Marcus Smart, the player he ultimately replaced in Boston.
“I consider myself a versatile player,” Holiday stated confidently. And if that’s the case, then he undoubtedly holds the title of the NBA’s best in that role. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I’m here to win. I believe they brought me here to win, and I’ll give my all to make that happen.”

But seriously, how did every other team in the NBA allow this to occur? The Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers were fierce competitors in the race for Holiday’s talents, and both teams would have greatly benefited from his presence. Not one person in Boston wanted to witness him landing with the Miami Heat. Every contender coveted Jrue Holiday, yet not a single one prevented him from joining the Celtics, a team in dire need of his skillset.

“Jrue is an exceptional teammate, without a doubt,” Brown praised. “He has brought a championship mindset to our team. We have complete faith in everything Jrue says. He is who he is. With his composed demeanor and killer mentality, we have the utmost respect for him. He’s an incredible teammate, and it’s truly an honor to have the opportunity to play alongside him.”
In Game 2, Jrue Holiday showcased his basketball intelligence by taking advantage of the Mavericks’ attempt to hide Kyrie Irving on him. Holiday strategically positioned himself in the dunker’s spot, which not only prevented Irving from protecting the rim as a help defender but also allowed him to benefit from passes from Jayson Tatum. Tatum’s exceptional court vision resulted in six of his game-high 12 assists finding Holiday, who scored 13 of his 26 points from these feeds. Despite struggling from beyond the arc, with the Celtics missing their first eight 3-point attempts and finishing 10-of-39 from distance, this collaboration between Holiday and Tatum kept the Celtics in the game. Holiday explained that he understands the importance of having someone drift with him when he drives, providing him with an outlet and clear vision of the court. He praised Tatum for consistently making excellent reads and facilitating their effective partnership.
In addition to a strong defensive performance that limited Dallas to only 70 points in the last three quarters, Holiday’s impact on the Celtics can be seen through his defense against Irving and Dončić. According to NBA tracking data, Holiday has spent a total of 15 minutes guarding these two players in the series. During that time, they have only managed to score 13 points on 13 shots. Moreover, whenever Holiday defends one of these two key players, the Mavs’ offense struggles, scoring a mere 84 points per 100 possessions. This is considered one of the worst offensive performances in NBA history.

White, speaking highly of Holiday, emphasized his experience and championship mentality. White believes that Holiday possesses that intangible quality known as “championship DNA.” Since joining the team during training camp, Holiday has displayed a winning presence and a deep understanding of what it takes to succeed.

To truly capture the significance of Holiday’s contribution to the Celtics, one particular sequence from Sunday’s game stands out.
In the closing minutes of the game, the Mavericks had a chance to narrow the Celtics’ eight-point lead. Defending Dallas forward P.J. Washington, Holiday made a crucial defensive play by deflecting a pass in the backcourt. He quickly shifted his focus to Dončić, who was running out of time to avoid an eight-second violation. With his strong defense, Holiday forced Dončić to make a bad pass, which was intercepted by White. White then passed the ball back to Holiday, who sealed the deal with a clutch 3-pointer.

On the following possession, Holiday continued his impressive performance by forcing Irving to miss a shot. He then grabbed an offensive rebound on the other end and found White for another 3-pointer.

The Mavericks were left stunned by Holiday’s outstanding display. He showcased his versatility with crafty layups, 3-pointers, assists, a block, and a steal. Holiday’s ability to contribute in various aspects of the game is a luxury for the Celtics, who were not even aware of his availability until the preseason. It’s hard to imagine what the Celtics would be without Holiday’s impactful presence.
Tatum expressed gratitude, saying, “Fortunately, we don’t have to discover that. We are incredibly lucky to have him.”