The Jrue Game: Holiday Rallies Through Illness, Seals Game 3 Comeback Win

The Boston Celtics experienced their own version of the Jordan "Flu Game" Saturday night: Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals will forever be known as the “Jrue Game.”

Boston rallied back from an 18-point deficit, and Jrue Holiday rallied from an illness to deliver the go-ahead bucket and the game-sealing steal. Together, they overcame the Indiana Pacers for a 114-111 win at Gainsbridge Fieldhouse to take a 3-0 series lead.

Holiday was so sick earlier in the day that he couldn’t attend the team’s shootaround, causing the team to list his status as “questionable” until around tip-off time. However, nothing was going to hold him back from suiting up and stepping on the court.

“I didn't feel too well, but, I guess I just figured if I got a good day's rest or tried to sleep through it, that would help me for tonight,” Holiday said. “It’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, so I wasn't going to miss this game.”

He didn’t miss the game, and he didn’t miss in the clutch.

With 38.9 seconds remaining, Holiday drove to the basket and tossed in a game-tying left-handed layup through contact from Pascal Siakam. Boston's veteran point guard then stepped up to the free-throw line and put his team ahead, 112-111, for its first lead since the beginning of the second quarter.

“I think I just saw a chance and took an opportunity,” Holiday said of the bucket. “I felt like [Siakam] was on his heels. He wasn't really expecting me to attack downhill. So I attacked him and just tried to be aggressive and got the and-one.”

And he had one more big play left in his bag on the other end. As Andrew Nembhard drove in for the potential winning bucket, Holiday got in front and stripped the ball loose with 3.8 seconds remaining. He grabbed the rock and sprinted up-court before getting fouled and then proceeded to finish off the Pacers with two more clutch free throws.

“That was an unbelievable play,” Al Horford said of the steal. “A guy like that coming full speed and having the instincts to do that, he's just a winner. Ultimately, that's what it comes down to. He's a winner. And he stepped up in such a big way for us tonight in that moment, also when he got the and-one, then knocking down those free throws at the end. He's a winner, man. I'm so fortunate to be playing next to him. I don't take it for granted.”

Holiday impacted the win in several ways, finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one block in 38 minutes of action.

The other four starters stepped up in their own ways as well. Jayson Tatum logged 36 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and one steal in 44 minutes of turnover-free action. Jaylen Brown poured in 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Al Horford scored 23 points while becoming the oldest player in playoff history to make seven 3-pointers in a game. And Derrick White added an all-around effort of 13 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and four blocks.

However, it was Holiday who deserved the game ball for powering through adversity and delivering the biggest plays of the night.

“I can't speak highly enough about Jrue,” said Tatum. “The ultimate teammate competitor, obviously a champion, wasn't at shootaround today, he was sick, dealing with chills and stuff like that. We've all been there, how tough that is, to fight through it, and for him to come out there and lay it all on the line for us, make the game-winning play essentially, especially on the defensive end. Jrue is just a big-time player, and he made a tremendous play.”

As Brown put it simply, “Jrue is different. Nothing really else to say. Jrue is just different."