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NBA Finals: Celtics’ Jrue Holiday gives honest one-word answer when asked how to stop Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving



It may seem like it was six months ago, but just before the start of the Western Conference finals, emerging Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Anthony Edwards used some provocative words when discussing his team’s defensive approach toward the Dallas Mavericks.

“My matchup is going to be Kyrie [Irving],” Edwards said. “So that’s going to be fun.”

*Narrator voice* It wasn’t fun.

All Irving did was drop 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting in Game 1 as Dallas threw the first punch with a road win in Minnesota. Afterward, Irving said that he used Edwards’ words “as motivation” heading into the matchup, and the eight-time All-Star finished the five-game series with averages of 27 points, five assists and four rebounds on 49/38/81 shooting splits.

So it makes sense that, on the eve of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday chose his words about Irving very wisely. When asked what he could do to limit Irving in any way, Holiday gave a refreshingly honest one-word response before providing a bit more detail.

“Pray,” Holiday said with a slight grin. “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.”

Arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, Holiday has made numerous high-stakes defensive plays over the course of his career — most recently a game-sealing steal against Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard in the Eastern Conference finals.

Even with that track record, Holiday isn’t brash enough to suggest that he alone can stop the man whom LeBron James just called “the most gifted player the NBA has ever seen.” Instead, Holiday accurately explained why it’s going to take a full team effort from the league’s second-ranked defense in order to keep Irving under wraps.

In two regular-season games against Boston this year (both Mavericks losses), Irving averaged 21 points and 2.5 assists on 18-for-43 (42%) shooting, including 4-of-14 (29%) from 3-point range. If Holiday and the Celtics can keep the dynamic guard around those figures during the Finals, they have to like their chances of winning their first title since 2008.





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