Celtics’ Jayson Tatum sounds off on Boston’s 2 unsung heroes amid playoff dominance

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 14, 2024

Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers by a score of 109-102 in Game 4 of their second-round Eastern Conference playoff series on Monday night, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 60 points in the victory, marking the second straight game they have totaled at least 60 points as a duo.

However, while Tatum is clearly the Celtics’ best player, he has given credit to a couple of other supplementary guys who he thinks have played a pivotal role in Boston’s success.

Tatum dropped 33 points for the second consecutive contest, so to see him openly waxing about the defensive effort of Derrick White and Jrue Holiday is certainly refreshing.

The C’s will look to close out the Cavaliers at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Derrick White and Jrue Holiday have been more than just role players for Celtics

Washington Wizards guard Jordan Poole (13) dribbles the ball as Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) and Celtics guard Derrick White (9) defend in the second quarter at Capital One Arena.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics acquired White at the trade deadline two years ago, which helped spearhead their run to the NBA Finals. White’s defensive savvy and knack for making big shots was huge for Boston, and the trade has been paying off ever since.

Meanwhile, the C’s landed Holiday just before the 2023-24 campaign began. The Celtics became accustomed to seeing him as an opponent during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he typically gave Boston fits. But now, Holiday is in the Celtic green, and the C’s are reaping the benefits.

Both Holiday and White finished inside the top 10 in Defensive Player of the Year voting this season, with Holiday finishing sixth and White placing eighth. Not only that, but both guards were superb offensively, with White posting a true shooting percentage of 61.1 percent and Holiday following along at 59.7 percent.

But things have been even better in the playoffs, particularly for White.

White averaged 15.2 points per game during the regular season, but in this postseason, he is logging 18.2 points per game off of 49.6/43.4/88.2 shooting splits. Most notably, he had a scintillating stretch between the final two games of the Celtics’ first-round series against the Miami Heat and Game 1 against Cleveland in which he registered 29.3 points per game and drained 20 three-pointers.

Of course, White is most known for his defense, as he is Boston’s fourth option when everyone is healthy (Kristaps Porzingis is currently sidelined with a calf injury).

Holiday has not been as prolific offensively, but he hasn’t needed to be. His defense has been otherworldly, and he has certainly represented a fine and versatile replacement for former Celtics defensive ace Marcus Smart, who was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in the three-team deal that brought Porzingis to Beantown last summer.

Obviously, Boston still has a long way to go. It has to finish off the Cavs, and it will have to beat whoever wins the New York Knicks-Indiana Pacers series. It’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers winning three straight against the C’s, especially with Donovan Mitchell compromised, so that series is probably already done. The Celtics should then be able to top the Knicks or the Pacers and punch their second ticket to the NBA Finals in the last three years.

That’s when the competition will truly get fierce for a Boston squad that has yet to really be tested in these playoffs.