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Jrue Holiday’s value as a role player, and other takeaways from two Celtics-Pacers games

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Jrue Holiday’s value as a role player, and other takeaways from two Celtics-Pacers games

Some players in Hield’s situation might deny ever saying that, but Hield essentially fessed up and shared his side. It can be easy to forget that this is ultimately all just entertainment, and even a tiny glimpse into a game’s signature moment is revealing and helpful.

▪ Speaking of postgame interviews, players tend to be short following a loss at the end of a road trip. They’re not pleased, and they just want to go home. But the Celtics’ postgame sessions were unusually introspective Monday.

It started when Kristaps Porzingis was asked about Jrue Holiday’s impact. The 7-foot-3-inch center flashed a wide smile before answering.

“Great question,” he said. “I want to talk about Jrue, because he’s the guy that deserves the most credit out of this team. He’s the one that I think sacrifices the most.”

Porzingis went on to discuss how Holiday has willingly accepted a reduced role after starring for the Bucks last season. He said it was “incredible to see.”

When these comments were relayed to Holiday, he was appreciative.

“But [the Bucks] were a different team with different needs, and what they needed from me,” Holiday said. “This team, what they needed out of me is to be solid, to be open to different strategies and situations every single game.”

▪ Along those lines, Mazzulla continues to experiment with different ways to use Holiday as a defender. During these two games, he occasionally deployed Holiday in the middle of a 2-1-2 zone.

“That’s something different for me,” Holiday said. “I’m usually on the ball and guarding the best player and locked into that and trying to fight over screens and get around blocked shots. But I think being able to talk and direct people where to go has been new for me, has been different. I’m usually listening to the people behind me.”

Holiday said he enjoyed the responsibility and was pleased to see how the zone slowed the Pacers’ high-octane offense in brief segments. He also made it clear that these experiments are not simply to throw off an opponent now.

“I feel like that’s something that we’ll work on,” he said. “because we’ll need it down the line.”

More than ever, the Celtics continue to plow through this regular season with the playoffs on their minds.

▪ It was interesting that the Pacers had Bennedict Mathurin intentionally miss his third free throw with 0.6 seconds left after he drilled the first two to give his team a 2-point lead Monday. That’s the obvious approach when the opponent is out of timeouts, but the Celtics had one. Also, the miss made a potential foul on the rebound possible.

Al Horford snagged the carom and called a timeout with 0.3 seconds left. The Pacers did get a bit unlucky when Mathurin’s miss bounced directly to Horford, though. If there had been any kind of tip or loose ball, time would probably have expired.

After the Celtics advanced the ball with a timeout, Derrick White’s lob to Luke Kornet was nearly tipped in by the big man.

▪ Brown’s confidence is swelling. He once again stepped in admirably with Jayson Tatum (ankle recovery) sidelined and poured in 40 points on 17-of-26 shooting.

“I didn’t think there was anybody over there who could guard me,” Brown said.

He was given a lot of playmaking responsibilities, and there were some missed opportunities. He had five turnovers and just two assists and said he should have done more to settle the Celtics during the Pacers’ 44-point third quarter.

“Still learning and growing,” Brown said. “I think the third quarter was a good string of minutes where I can watch and see when the game gets intense like that, how I can slow the game down and get my team more composed. But other than that, I feel like I managed the game pretty well.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.

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