With Jaylen Brown ruled out with a hyperextended knee injury, it meant that there would be opportunities for other players to step up. Jrue Holiday was one of those players who capitalized on the opportunity.
From the opening tip, Holiday was aggressive with the ball and found the right spots when he didn’t have the ball. Known for his defense, Holiday had it going on offense too, finishing the game with 22 points, seven assists, six rebounds, two blocks, and one steal.
After seeing how aggressive Holiday was to start the game with 10 points, three assists, two blocks, two rebounds, and a steal in the first quarter, he was bound for a big game.
Six of his first 10 points came from wide-open threes that he knocked down early to gain confidence. Holiday got plenty of open looks because the Toronto Raptors defense kept doubling Jayson Tatum or Kristaps Porzingis.
When asked about the Raptors doubling Tatum, Holiday said, “I like wide-open shots. I’ll take ‘em… So please keep doubling so I can get open shots.”
Monday night felt like Jrue was locked in and starting to feel comfortable in the system and knowing when to pick his spots. Joe Mazzulla talked about the adjustment period that players go through when they join a new team. Mazzulla linked it to how it took White a little bit of time to be comfortable when he arrived from San Antonio.
“You can see [Jrue] getting more comfortable and comfortable on both ends of the floor,” Mazzulla said.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Raptors went on an 8-0 run that cut Boston’s lead to six. Needing a basket, Holiday stepped up with confidence into a spot-up three-point dagger.
As if that shot wasn’t enough, a minute later it was Holiday again sinking a big three to not only end the run, but extend Boston’s lead to 12.
The Celtics needed Tatum in the third, but when they needed Holiday in the first and fourth quarter, he didn’t falter.
“[I] felt like it (being aggressive) was needed. You know, I just took the opportunities that were given to me and really just tried to be aggressive on both ends of the court,” Holiday said.
When asked about all five starters scoring in double figures, Holiday talked about the team’s “balance” and knowing when it’s time to “go.”
“Yeah, we got a good balance. We got to know when to find our spots and when we can go. I think it was the third quarter JT started going off and ended up with 19 at the end of that quarter. I think just different spots, we’re really good at figuring out when we can go and let that person go and start getting buckets,” Holiday said.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Celtics switched from man-to-man to a 2-1-2 defense with Holiday anchoring the middle of the zone. It worked as Holiday was the conductor of the defense, yelling out instructions while picking up the loose man. Jrue said the team “thinks the game” which helps the defense.
“I think the versatility that we have on defense, a lot of athleticism. A lot of smart guys [and] good character guys, but I think we think the game,” Holiday said. “So switching up defensively from zone to man, I think [it] stopped the transition points, and also we took great offensive shots so that they can’t just get out in transition.”