Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The Boston Celtics aren't easy to beat on their home floor. In fact, before Friday night, the Celtics had lost only two of their last 16 regular season home games. Those two defeats came at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks and the San Antonio Spurs.
Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers added their name to that list with an impressive 106-100 win over the team that ousted them from the postseason less than six months ago.
It was a statement win for the 3-2 Sixers.
And what exactly was that statement? I think Evan Turner said it best.
"We're not intimidated," the Sixers guard declared after the victory.
The Sixers could have looked up at the rafters at TD Garden with all the championship banners and retired numbers and gotten scared. They could have run for the hills when they saw Kevin Garnett bang his head on the hoop like a crazy person. They could have retreated when Boston cut their lead to four points late in the fourth quarter.
But the 76ers never backed down Friday night in Beantown. Not even for a second. Jrue Holiday wouldn't let them.
Holiday silenced the almost 19,000 Boston fans in attendance by delivering a stunning 21-point effort, never letting the veteran Celtics off the hook despite their many desperate comeback attempts. Holiday also registered 14 assists in the victory, a new career-high.
With the way Holiday quarterbacked Philly's offense on Friday, you wonder if Andy Reid will consider putting him in the lineup Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys (He has to be better than Michael Vick, right?).
The Celtics' starting five looked spent trying to keep up with the Sixers on Friday. Holiday, meanwhile, looked like he could go right back out there and play another 48 minutes.
"I'm getting up there," Holiday joked after the game when a reporter mentioned his age. Holiday is 22.
That age can be a blessing and a curse for the former UCLA guard. At times Holiday looks incredibly raw when he has the basketball in his hands. The seven turnovers he committed on Friday speak to that.
"Sometimes I get too anxious on passes," Holiday admitted. "There were a couple times when my teammates were too open and I kind of zipped the ball too hard and it went right through their hands."
While Holiday's inexperience can sometimes lead to mistakes, his youthful energy and outstanding hustle also led to a number of incredible plays on Friday night.
With the second quarter winding down, Sixers forward Dorell Wright had the ball stolen away from him by Rajon Rondo. The Celtics guard immediately shipped the ball off to Courtney Lee for an easy transition layup.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Holiday emerged at the last second to swat Lee's shot away. The block preserved a 12-point lead for the Sixers as they headed back to the locker room for halftime.
The resilient Celtics were able to get the crowd back into it by crafting a 7-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Holiday responded by feeding Thaddeus Young for an easy layup on the next possession. The next time down the court, Holiday drilled a three, pushing the Philadelphia lead back to 10 and causing Boston head coach Doc Rivers to call a timeout.
With the lead down to four, Evan Turner chucked up a brick leading to a loose ball with just a tick under 40 seconds left in regulation.
Who was there for the offensive rebound? Holiday, of course.
After Friday's heroic effort, Holiday was able to move ahead of Brandon Jennings for third in the NBA in assists per game. His 10.4 apg average is nearly six assists better than the amount he averaged last season (4.5 apg).
Holiday has also improved his scoring. During the 2011-12 season Holiday averaged 13.5 ppg. Through five games this season, he leads the team at 18.6 ppg.
Could 2012-13 be Holiday's breakout season? It sure looks like it.
With Andre Iguodala in Denver and Lou Williams playing for the Atlanta Hawks now, Holiday's role in the offense has never been more important. That's probably why he's already averaging 5.6 minutes per game more than he did in 2011-12. He's also attempting 2.4 more field goal attempts per game than he did a season ago.
Holiday might see his scoring average dip by a point or two when Andrew Bynum returns to the lineup (he's out with a knee injury), but the high assist numbers will still be there. And so will the passion and heart that led to Friday night's win in Boston.
Holiday has only been in this league for four seasons and I'm sure he'll be in it for many more years to come. It's still early, but I have to say, the future looks pretty darn bright for Jrue Holiday.
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