Jrue Holiday's 'Championship DNA' Rubbing Off on Celtics

Jun 9, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) shoots the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (left) during the second quarter in game two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 9, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) shoots the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington (left) during the second quarter in game two of the 2024 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

Considering the stage, it's fair to label Sunday's performance as Jrue Holiday's best with the Celtics. Factor in the significance of teams that win the first two games of the NBA Finals at home proceeding to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy 84.4% of the time (27-5), and the case for that strengthens.

The former UCLA Bruin did so by starring in his role. As the Mavericks loaded up to slow Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, daring the star wings to beat Dallas as facilitators, the two happily beat their opponent with their playmaking.

Brown finished with 21 points and seven assists. Tatum registered 18 of the former and a game-high 12 of the latter. The three-time All-NBA First Team selection repeatedly worked in concert with Holiday, attacking the defense and finding the two-time All-Star around the basket.

Whether he worked from the dunker spot, cut to the rim, ran the floor in transition, or attacked off the dribble, Holiday presented problems the Mavericks couldn't solve.

That's the luxury of Boston boasting the most talented top six in the Association at a time when its core is willing to sacrifice and prioritize what's best for the collective.

"I'm a utility guy," voiced Holiday after the Celtics' 105-98 win. "I'll do whatever. I'm here to win. I feel like they brought me here to win, and I'll do my best to do that. But at the end of the day, this is their team," he said of Tatum and Brown.

"I know it's probably just as much my team as theirs, but again, I feel like I talked about this before: the pressure that they have on themselves to execute and to be great is a little bit different than my pressure. And, again, I've always been honest about that, and how they always handle themselves has been something that's been so honorable. So, it's just, it's slightly different. They're superstars, and I'm here to support (them)."

The group, Tatum and Brown included -- as their unselfish play in Game 2 is a testament to -- have quickly accepted whatever role is required on a given night, no matter what that calls for.

On Sunday, with Boston's All-Star wings facilitating, Holiday's off-ball activity and consistently running the floor in transition allowed him to deliver a team-high 26 points on 11/14 shooting.

At the other end of the floor, the six-time All-Defensive team selection put the clamps on Kyrie Irving, limiting him to 16 points on 18 shots.

Holiday also helped slow Luka Doncic, who went from generating 23 points in the first half, the most in the first 24 minutes of Game 2, to registering nine on eight attempts and committing five of his eight turnovers in the final two frames.

He grabbed 11 rebounds for good measure, tying Doncic for the most in the matchup.

"Jrue has been an example of just excellence," stated Brown after the Celtics' Game 2 win. "Since he's been here, his role has been different from what it was the last few years on Milwaukee, and he's been able to adapt. Not a lot of guys can do that, be versatile, play different roles and different styles, and still have an effect on the game.

"Jrue, he just came in (and) he wasn't on the ball as much, still guarded at a high level, but became a corner three-point specialist. That's just a testament to his greatness. Tonight, they wanted to emphasize loading up, making us make the right reads over and over again, and Jrue had a lot of opportunities tonight, and he took advantage. He's just a hell of a player, (a) hell of a person, great teammate. I credit the victory to him tonight."

Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday lays the ball in during Game 2 of the 2024 NBA Finals vs. the Dallas Mavericks.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

While discussing welcoming Holiday into a group that already had outstanding team chemistry, Tatum conveyed, "I've had a relationship with Jrue from a few years ago; we won a gold medal. So, I would check in or always remind him to be yourself, and we're going to need you in big moments, obviously, like tonight. Not that maybe he didn't need the reminder, but just letting him know throughout the season how much we value him."

Holiday's even-keeled nature has been another blessing brought to Boston, helping his team stay poised in the most challenging moments. And as the Celtics have navigated a run that's now two wins from Banner 18, leaning on someone who's reached the NBA summit has been of inestimable value.

"That experience, that championship DNA," said Derrick White. "You don't really know what it takes until you do what it takes. The moment he came to our team in training camp, he had that presence about him. He just knows how to win."

That has rubbed off on his first-year teammates, who he's on the verge of helping get where he's already been and came to Boston to return to.

Further Reading

Stifling Defense Moves Celtics Halfway to Banner 18

Jayson Tatum Responds to Jason Kidd's Shocking Comment

Jayson Tatum's Joy Outweighing Pressure of NBA Finals Return

Inside the Moment that Propelled Celtics to NBA Finals Game 1 Win

Preparation and Perspective Fueling Kristaps Porzingis in NBA Finals

Celtics Set the Tone for the NBA Finals with Game 1 Haymaker

Celtics Stars Reflect on Lessons Learned from 2022 NBA Finals

Kyrie Irving Shares Regret and What He Takes from Playing in Boston

Joe Mazzulla Eviscerates Contrived Narrative about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

Al Horford Returns to NBA Finals Aiming to Add to a Legacy Already Cemented

Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.