Jrue Holiday Performs As Game-Changer In Celtics’ Game 1 Comeback Against Pacers


Jaylen Brown hit the game’s most crucial shot, and Jayson Tatum’s dominant overtime performance propelled the Celtics to a comeback victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. However, neither star would have been in that position without Jrue Holiday.

Holiday, named NBA’s Teammate of the Year three times in the last five seasons, excels at elevating his teammates while making critical plays on both ends of the floor.

In Boston’s 133-128 overtime win on Tuesday night, Holiday showcased everything the Celtics hoped for when Brad Stevens acquired him from Portland over the summer, following the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to trade their on-court leader for Damian Lillard.

Throughout Game 1, Holiday made tough defensive plays, effectively containing Tyrese Haliburton (as much as anyone can “contain” the Pacers star). He also delivered slick passes for easy teammate looks and hit key shots.

“Jrue was fantastic. Jrue was exceptional. Shout out to Jrue. Jrue came out and balled, man,” said Brown. “He’s the reason why we won his game. I think he just was poised, he took advantage of his matchups. He just was so, so elite in that. It’s a lot. 

“And he’s guarding Haliburton, picking him up, chasing him around. That was special from Jrue Holiday,” Brown added.

Holiday scored 28 points, with 20 coming after halftime. He shot 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter while the rest of the Celtics were cold, going just 5-for-18. Twelve of Holiday’s points came in the paint, and he shot 10-for-16 overall, including 4-for-8 from three-point range.

“He’s the best defender in the NBA. He has been for a long time.” Haliburton said of Holiday.

Although he had just one of his eight assists in the fourth quarter, it was the assist of the game. With the Celtics down by three and time dwindling, Holiday found Brown in the corner for a game-tying three-pointer despite Pascal Siakam’s tight defense. After the win, Brown praised Holiday’s incredible performance in Game 1.

Haliburton finished with 25 points and 10 assists for the Pacers, but Holiday made his night difficult. Haliburton was 0-for-3 against Holiday’s defense and committed two turnovers—one in the final 30 seconds of regulation and another with just over a minute left in overtime. The latter turnover set the stage for Tatum’s three-pointer that put Boston ahead by four points with 42.5 seconds remaining.

“He’s the kind of guy who can impact the game in different ways every night,” said Boston head coach Joe Mazzulla. “Tonight it was his scoring, his play-making and his defense, it was a well-rounded game by him. I thought his poise and his demeanor throughout the game was tremendous for us.”

Holiday’s performance was expected from a player named to his sixth All-Defensive team on Tuesday afternoon. His offensive contributions, however, were equally significant. Over the last four games—all Boston wins—Holiday has shot an impressive 60.9 percent from the floor, averaging 18.8 points.

“I think just continually being aggressive, continually working on my game, continually having the coaches and my teammates in my ear telling me that they’re gonna need me,” Holiday said after his big game. “Even just knowing like, especially times during the game, just being aggressive no matter what end on the floor it’s on. I’m gonna continue to do that and see what happens.”

As the only Celtics player with a championship ring, Holiday’s experience is evident. He remains unflustered even in the most intense playoff moments. His calmness and aggressive play were crucial in Tuesday night’s game, which the Celtics might have lost in the past due to critical turnovers or mental mistakes.

Facing another home loss and an 0-1 series deficit, the Celtics relied on Holiday, who remained composed during the end-of-game chaos and made pivotal plays. His leadership and performance led the Celtics to a significant comeback win.

“We always knew that there’s always a chance,” Holiday said. “We’ve seen crazy stuff happen all the time, so I don’t think that we think we lost the game until we actually lost the game.”

Thanks to Holiday, the Celtics avoided a loss and secured a crucial Game 1 victory.