Instead, Holiday transferred much of his focus to the defensive end, as head coach Joe Mazzulla has entrusted him with being the Celtics’ quarterback on that side of the ball. “It’s been fun, but it’s definitely been a challenge,” Holiday said of the role.
But his huge responsibilities on defense haven’t taken away from his ability to step up on offense when the Celtics need him to. Holiday was an All-Star last year for a plethora of reasons, and defense was just one of them. He tallied a 51-point game, a 40-point game, and five other 30-point games.
Jaylen Brown was out on Monday night against the Toronto Raptors, and on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs and Victor Wembanyama, the Celtics were without Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick White. In both games, Holiday was ready.
“I wouldn’t say that my mindset changes,” Holiday said of his playstyle when a star Celtic is out. “I think it’s more like the flow is a little different.”
Holiday posted a season-high 22 points in each of Boston’s last two games (against Toronto and San Antonio), helping the Celtics earn two wins in a row. His aggressiveness has been crucial, but even more importantly, he’s been ready to shoot whenever the ball finds him at the three-point line.
“I’ve been getting a lot of open shots [by] being in the place that I’m supposed to be in, and I’ve been knocking down the shots,” said Holiday. “[I’m] playing with confidence, and I feel like my coaches and my teammates give me that.”
The Celtics guard is 10-of-13 from three-point range in Boston’s last two contests, and his hot streak came out of nowhere. In the previous three games before Boston took on Toronto, Holiday was just 3-of-16 from distance.
His aggressiveness has shone through with some self-created threes, such as this giant step-back three in the corner over Jeremy Sochan:
But most of his looks from distance are a result of his precise positioning.
Stand-still threes are still the largest part of his long-distance diet, but it’s the way Holiday is getting to his marks that is most intriguing.
Rather than simply waiting at the three-point line for Jayson Tatum, Brown, or another one of his teammates to make a play, the Celtics are actively looking to get Holiday in the spots that are best for him.
Fellow stars are setting off-ball screens for him (with a clean Luke Kornet dime thrown into the mix as well):
He’s making subtle movements off the ball to find his own space:
And he’s even setting off-ball screens himself to confuse the defense (though this play may have been equal parts Spurs being confused and Holiday and Al Horford causing chaos):
Amidst all the three-point focus, Holiday is also finding time to drive the lane, mix in some turnaround post-ups, and find his teammates for 4.6 dimes a night. It’s just that he doesn’t always have to do all of that.
Holiday’s primary job will continue to be that of Boston’s defensive leader, but when the team needs extra offensive contributions from him, he’s always ready.