Jrue Holiday steps up in Game 3 vs Cavaliers with feat not seen since Celtics arrival

Tony Nguyen | Boston Celtics
May 12, 2024

The Boston Celtics got a much needed victory Saturday night as they took down the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Boston was coming off of a frustrating Game 2 performance where they lost by 24 points at home, but bounced back in the next contest with a collective effort in part by star Jrue Holiday who had an impressive showcase.

In the Celtics win, Holiday scored 18 points off of making seven of his 10 shots from the field, recorded five assists, and collected eight rebounds. According to StatMuse, it is his first 15-5-5 playoff game as a member of Boston as he is in his first season with the historic organization.

When it comes to the short history of the Celtics’ run in the postseason so far, every Game 2 has been a disappointing showcase as besides the aforementioned loss to the Cavs, they also lost to the short-handed Miami Heat in the first round at home as well. However, if we follow that same timeline, Boston would go on to dominate each game on the road before finishing off the series on their home floor as while that remains to be seen, Holiday talked about the mindset going into this game via NBCSCeltics.

“I thunk JB [Jaylen Brown] just told us it wasn’t over,” Holiday said. “We’ve been here before this year where we’re up 20 in the fourth quarter and came back and won, so I think we know what kind of firepower they have, what type of team they are. Really great scorers, but we felt like coming in and trying to punch them in the mouth right off the gate.”

Holiday talks the strategy against Donovan Mitchell

Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) brings the ball up court against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter of game three of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Holiday did have a smart game plan going into Saturday night where since he was primarily guarded by Cavs star Donovan Mitchell throughout the game, he was aggressive on offense so he can try to tire him out. While the dynamic scorer would still score 33 points, the effects of Holiday were still felt since he is one of the league’s best two-way players.

“There were times where, rather than defer or do something (else), I just thought maybe attacking him might get him even more exhausted by the third or fourth quarter,” Holiday said according to Noa Dalzell of CelticsBlog.

On the other hand, there is some context with the 33 points Mitchell scored as 23 came in the first half with only 10 being scored in the other, but more importantly, he would only score one basket in the final period. Even Holiday said to the media after the game that while the Cavs guard is “elite,” he “felt like he was a little gassed.”

“I felt like he was a little gassed,” Holiday said. “It’s hard what he’s doing. What he’s doing is elite, to be able to put up that many points and so efficiently — and we’re making it tough on him.”

Jaylen Brown compliments Holiday’s performance for the Celtics

Besides the impressive performance from Holiday, the brunt of the offensive production came from the Celtics’ dynamic duo in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who combined for 61 points. The latter would compliment Holiday and his outing as he not only showed off his ability to play on both ends of the court, but he also made some “timely baskets.”

“Jrue [Holiday] is a dog,” Brown said, via CLNS. “Can’t speak highly enough about Jrue [Holiday] — just how he came and just dominated on both sides of the ball, but just made timely baskets.”

With how deep this Celtics team is, Holiday could have the mindset that he should feed the ball to the players who can create offense. However, Brown said after the game that he sent the message where Holiday should be more selfish in terms of finding his own offense or how the star puts it, “just play basketball.”

“Don’t be so caught up in trying to force it to one of our guys, just play basketball,” Brown said per Dalzall of CelticsBlog. “We should be good enough where we should be able to figure it out, and I feel like I’m at that point in my career, whether you call a play for me or not, I’m gonna figure it out.”

Jayson Tatum calls Holiday the “glue” that keeps Boston together

Brown would score 28 points in the game while collecting nine rebounds and recording three assists as he made 13 of his 17 attempts from the field in an efficient night. As for Tatum, he has had some shooting struggles as of late, but came back with a force in Game 3 and was a star where the 26-year old scored 33 points, collected 13 rebounds, and recorded six assists as he called Holiday “the glue that keeps us all together.”

“​​Jrue [Holiday] was amazing tonight,” Tatum said. “Jrue [Holiday] is kind of like the glue that keeps us all together. He literally does everything that we need him to.”

The scoring output Saturday really is an irregularity if one looks at Holiday’s usual production as on the season he averages 12.5 points, 5,4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. According to ClutchPoints Celtics reporter Daniel Donabedian, “Jrue Holiday’s 18-point performance in Game 3 was his highest scoring output since February 9th vs. the Washington Wizards” where he scored 20.

Not only does it show the immense depth of the Celtics where Holiday does not need to score 20 points a game, but also how much he sacrifices to make the rest of the team better. The term “sacrifices” is the exact word Tatum used to describe how the 33-year old contributes to the rest of the group.

“He sacrifices — sometimes taking single-digit shots a couple games in a row,” Tatum said. “But in a night when he can attack the mismatches — he can post up guys, he can obviously shoot the three — when he’s being aggressive in that great rhythm, it makes us that much better.”

Holiday’s outing was a “masterclass” in Game 3

Holiday has been in the league now for 15 seasons where he has played for such teams as the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans, and most recently with the Milwaukee Bucks where the current Celtics players probably know him best. When Brown was talking about the performance the UCLA product had, he mentioned that is the player they “know and love,” but also that they “played against” as he had a “masterclass.”

“That’s the Jrue Holiday that we know and love, and we played against,” Brown said. “Tonight was just a masterclass from Jrue. What a game from him.”

Boston now takes a 2-1 series lead over Cleveland as Game 4 will be Monday night where they will look to take full control. The Celtics have aspirations after a very successful regular season in trying to make it back to the NBA Finals and capture their 18th championship in franchise history and their first since 2008.