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Playing Jrue Holiday, Derrick White keeps the Celtics moving in the right direction


“I think they’re our X-factors,” Jaylen Brown said of the Celtics’ starting guards.

Jrue Holiday made a team-high four 3-pointers in the Game 4 victory to put the Celtics in control of this series. DANIELLE PARHIZKARAN/GLOBE STAFF

CLEVELAND — The duo of Jrue Holiday and Derrick White in the Celtics’ backcourt is a luxury other teams don’t have.

No other team had two players in the top 10 in Defensive Player of the Year voting this season; Holiday finished sixth and White eighth.

“I’m just grateful these guys are on our team,” Jayson Tatum said. “The intangible things they do on defense end up night in and night out, whether it’s chasing down shooters or fighting through screens or going over the top and contesting shots.

“They do it as long as they’re in the game. They’re really the anchor of our defense and we just try to match their intensity throughout.”

White and Holiday are tough, savvy and selfless guards who prioritize team success over individual accolades. Both are capable of changing the dynamic of a game with their scoring. They have the intelligence, size and skills to create confrontational problems.

“I think they’re our X-factors,” Jaylen Brown said Monday, after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers to take a 3-1 series lead. “I think when one or both of them play well, it makes us extremely difficult to beat.

“I think no matter what, we have to maintain our defensive identity whether we shoot or not. So I just need those two to still be locked in physically on defense, but on offense, Jrue did that tonight.

“Jrue had the upper hand, he was aggressive, and that’s the Jrue I think we need moving forward if we want to continue to do what we want to do. And then Derrick kept shooting in spots; he hit some big shots down the stretch, but continue to stay in the game even if your shot doesn’t fall.

They supported each other throughout these playoffs. When one is struggling, the other is there to balance things out.

White caught fire in the first round against Miami, averaging 22.4 points on 57.7 percent shooting from the field and 47.7 percent from 3-point range.

He cooled off in the conference semifinals against Cleveland, going 5-for-19 in the final two games.

But Games 3 and 4 of this series brought out the best in Holiday, who had his two best playoff performances in a Celtics uniform. He averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 61.9 percent in those two games.

“It’s awesome because I know in the first series and the first two games of this one, I was struggling and D-White was in great shape, going crazy,” Holiday said. “It’s really easy to play against him because I think we’ve both been combo guards for most of our careers.

“We kind of know when to step back and play for others and then when to be aggressive. And then we both play pretty good defense. So just versatile players just trying to win a game.

Derrick White (above) and Jrue Holiday are savvy guards who established chemistry in their first season with the Celtics.
Derrick White (above) and Jrue Holiday are savvy guards who have established chemistry in their first season with the Celtics.DANIELLE PARHIZKARAN/GLOBE STAFF

There were a number of possessions Monday night when Holiday’s defense led to clean looks for himself and others on the offensive end.

A good example came with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter. Holiday hounded Darius Garland from the corner of the 3-point line to the top of the key. He fought through two screens from Tristan Thompson and still managed to get his hand close enough to interfere with a rushed shot attempt from Darius Garland.

Tatum grabbed the rebound, then threw the ball to Payton Pritchard, who dealt it to Holiday for a three-and-out. Holiday made a team-high four 3-pointers on eight attempts Monday night.

“Again, it comes down to being two-way players,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “They affect the game differently every night. Sometimes, like we saw Derrick at the start of the third quarter, tonight, he only shoots six shots but his ball handling, his offensive organization, his defense.

“And then again, Jrue, two nights in a row, taking shots, being aggressive offensively. These guys go into every game just being open-minded about how they can impact the game in either direction. So it’s a luxury to have them, but all of our guys did it in the playoffs.

Shooting touches come and go, Brown said, but it’s their willingness to make intense plays and work on defense that allows them to have a consistent impact on the game.

“You can always play to help you win,” Brown said. “Rebounds, decisive shots, blocked shots, defensive plays, all those little things add up. We don’t have time to bow our heads. Whether you have a good or bad shooting night, you still need to impact the game.

“So, thanks to these two. They were professional, but we still need to get more out of them as we progress.


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