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Jrue Holiday was the game-changer the Celtics needed in Game 1 comeback vs. Pacers

BOSTON -- Jaylen Brown hit the biggest shot of the game and Jayson Tatum's monster overtime led the Celtics to a comeback win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indian Pacers. But neither of Boston's stars would have been in that position had it not been for Jrue Holiday.

There's a reason Holiday has been named the NBA's Teammate of the Year three times in the last five seasons. He has a knack for putting those around them in the best position to succeed, in addition to making a slew of big plays on both ends of the floor.

Holiday was the total package in Boston's 133-128 overtime victory Tuesday night. He brought everything the Celtics envisioned when would when Brad Stevens acquired him from Portland over the summer, after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to swap out out their on-court leader for Damian Lillard. 

Holiday made tough defensive plays throughout Game 1 and helped contain Tyrese Haliburton. (At least as much as one can "contain" the Pacers star.) He made slick passes to get teammates easy looks and hit hots in key moments. 

Holiday scored 28 points in the victory, 20 of which came after halftime. He was 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter, when the rest of the Celtics were ice cold and shot just 5-for-18. Holiday scored a dozen of his points in the paint, and was 10-for-16 overall and 4-for-8 from three.

He had just one of his eight assists in the fourth, but it was the assist of the game. With the Celtics down three and time melting off the clock, he found Brown in the corner, who nailed a game-tying three with Pascal Siakam all up in his grill. After the win, Brown broke out the thesaurus to describe just how incredible Holiday was in Game 1.

"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.

Haliburton had 25 points and 10 assists for the Pacers, but Holiday didn't make it easy on him. He was 0-for-3 with Holiday on him, and committed two turnovers -- one in the final 30 seconds of regulation and another with just over a minute left in overtime. The latter of the two set the stage for Tatum's three that put Boston up by four points with 42.5 seconds left. 

"He's the best defender in the NBA. He has been for a long time." Haliburton said of Holiday.

Holiday's performance was exactly what you'd expect out of a guy who was named to his sixth All-Defensive team on Tuesday afternoon. The offense that he generates and produces can't be understated though, and Holiday is on quite a heater at the moment.

In the last four games -- all Boston wins -- Holiday has shot a blistering 60.9 percent from the floor while averaging 18.8 points. 

"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 is the only player on the Celtics with a championship ring, and it shows. He never seems rattled and remains calm even in the most intense moments of a tight playoff game. But don't let that coolness fool you; being aggressive is the name of the game for the veteran guard. 

"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."

Tuesday night was the kind of game that the Celtics would have lost in the past. They'd be the team making the big turnover or mental mistake at the worst possible time, and for a long stretch in the fourth quarter, it looked like that was how things were going to play out.

Another home loss and an 0-1 series hole was staring Boston right in the face. But Holiday didn't blink, and his tranquility during all that end-of-game madness (and his playmaking, of course) led the Celtics to a massive 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 didn't actually lose the game. 

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