UCLA Basketball: Jrue Holiday Making Early Case for Finals MVP in Game 1 vs Mavericks

Could the world be on the verge of an Andre Iguodala situation?
Jun 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) reacts after a shot against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter during game one of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) reacts after a shot against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter during game one of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Though he may not quite have stuffed the stat sheet on Thursday night, Boston Celtics All-Defensive guard Jrue Holiday quietly put himself on the board as a potential sneaky role player contender for Finals MVP honors this year.

A one-and-done UCLA Bruin in 2008-09, Holiday has carved out a terrific, lucrative niche for himself as one of the great perimeter defenders and veteran leaders in the modern NBA. The 6-foot-4 pro, a two-time All-Star and six-time All-Defensive Teamer (split evenly between three First Team appearances and three Second Team appearances), submitted modest individual numbers in his team's lopsided 107-89 home defeat of the high-flying Dallas Mavericks. He scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field (2-of-5 from beyond the arc) and 2-of-2 shooting from the foul line, while pulling down eight boards, dishing out five dimes and swiping one steal. Respectable counts all, but not earth-shattering. He was just the fifth-leading scorer on his own team.

But for folks who were paying attention, Holiday was one of the more essential components of his club's attack.

Holiday quarterbacked the team's incredibly impressive perimeter defensive effort, stifling superstar guard Kyrie Irving into a miserable 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) shooting night from the field, for just 12 points and a game-worst -19 plus-minus. Holiday was everywhere, even at the basketball-advanced age of 33, often hounding Irving for all 94 feet of TD Garden. The former UCLA standout could be the key to helping Boston achieve its record-breaking 18th league title, and its first since 2008 (before Holiday was even in college). It would be Holiday's second championship.

He has an outside shot at notching an Andre Iguodala-esque Finals MVP award, though surely Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and even Kristaps Porzingis — all of whom put up gaudier numbers on Thursday — would be favored. But Iguodala's monumental two-way effort in the 2015 NBA Finals for the Golden State Warriors, highlighted by his defensive play against then-Cleveland Cavaliers All-NBA forward LeBron James, helped him steal the honor from that season's MVP, All-NBA point guard Stephen Curry. If Holiday continues to dominate Irving, maybe he has a shot at snagging the honor from his higher-profile comrades.

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Alex Kirschenbaum

ALEX KIRSCHENBAUM

Alex likes slam dunks, take him to the hoop. His favorite play is the alley-oop.