‘Best defender in the NBA': Holiday shuts down Haliburton in Game 1

‘Best defender in the NBA': Holiday shuts down Haliburton in Game 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Jrue Holiday has an NBA championship on his résumé, and that experience showed in the Boston Celtics' victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Holiday was an efficient scorer in the series opener. He poured in 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting (4-of-8 from 3-point range), along with eight rebounds and seven assists in a team-leading 48 minutes.

But it was Holiday's defensive impact that made the strongest difference in Boston's 133-128 overtime win.

The veteran point guard tallied three steals and played lockdown defense throughout the game, especially when matched up against the Pacers' best player, Tyrese Haliburton.

Haliburton scored 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting with 10 assists and three rebounds. He played a pretty good game, but he wasn't very effective when Holiday was the primary defender.

Just how dominant defensively was Holiday on Haliburton? These numbers tell a compelling story:

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Haliburton tipped his cap to Holiday following Indiana's defeat.

"He's the best defender in the NBA. He has been for a long time." Haliburton said. "… It's unfortunate. It's frustrating for sure. But it happens. We make mistakes, we're human. I learned from it and I'll be better in Game 2."

The NBA released the 2023-24 All-Defensive first and second teams Tuesday, and Holiday was voted to the second team. It's the sixth year in the last seven that Holiday has been voted to one of those teams. He made the first team in 2018, 2021 and 2023, and the second team in 2019, 2022 and 2024.

The Celtics have multiple quality defenders to throw at Haliburton, in addition to Holiday. Derrick White is one option. He was named to the All-Defensive second team on Tuesday as well. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could get some more minutes defending Haliburton, too.

The Pacers have a pretty balanced offense -- seven players scored 10-plus points in Game 1 -- but the engine that drives the attack is Haliburton. He's a talented scorer and one of the league's best playmakers. Making his job as difficult as possible needs to be the top priority for the Celtics on the defensive end of the floor.