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How does the Celtics’ Jrue Holiday intend to stop the Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving in the NBA Finals?

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The last time a player spoke of handling the Dallas Mavericks point guard, it resulted in Kyrie Irving putting 30 points on the board in a contest that the Mavericks won. It was Game 1 of the Western Conference finals and that player was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards. To that end, the Celtics’ guard chose his word(s) carefully when speaking of the challenge that awaits him.

What did Jrue Holiday say about guarding Kyrie Irving?

“Pray.” That was the word used by Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday when asked how he intended to contain eight-time All-Star and Dallas Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving. With a smile on his face, Holiday spoke to the need for keeping things simple and of course requiring help. Irving is, after all, a player who finished the five-game series against the Timberwolves with an average of 27 points, five assists, and four rebounds. With that in mind, Holiday’s point makes sense.

“I think it’s just familiarity, just, I think, knowing each other’s Game, doing your best to stay in front of him - trying to take away the things that’ll probably hurt you the most. And then, probably most of all, having help. Him being able to see multiple guys on the court, making it look like it’s crowded, making shots as tough as possible even though he’s a tough shot-maker.” Of course, there is also the flipside which is to say Holiday is himself, arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA and one who has made multiple defensive stops across his career and huge ones at that.

That said, it’s interesting to note that the 33-year-old who won a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021, doesn’t believe that he alone can stop Irving despite his obvious credentials. To be fair, it’s not as if he doesn’t have experience with Irving since making the switch from the Bucks to the Celtics. In the two regular-season Games between the Mavs and Celtics, both of which were won by Boston, Irving averaged 21 points and 2.5 assists on 18-for-43 (42%) shooting, including 4-of-14 (29%) from 3-point range. In that sense, even if they weren’t able to completely contain Irving, the limitation of his effect was clearly part of why they won. Is that a sign of things to come?

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