76ers' Holiday steps up in big game

Jrue Holiday scored 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting in Game 2 on Tuesday. Rob Grabowski/US Presswire

CHICAGO – Whoever he matched up against, Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday expected to be a difference-maker against the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Whether the injured Derrick Rose would have allowed Holiday to go off for a career night Tuesday can’t be known, but Holiday couldn’t have played much better against the Bulls’ point guard tandem of C.J. Watson and John Lucas III. Holiday scored a career playoff-high 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting, dished out six assists and didn’t have a turnover in the 76ers’ 109-92 win over the Bulls to even the series.

“I guess the explanation would be ‘playoffs,’ ” said Holiday, who scored a career-high 30 points in a loss to the Bulls earlier in the season. “You know what I mean? This is the stage we dream to be on. This is what we did for the regular season to be here. Playing against the best team in the East, somebody has to step up.

“That’s unfortunate [about Rose], but we expect to play like this every game [whether] Derrick’s there or not. We want to come out and push like we did.”

Holiday simply had one of those nights.

It began with a driving layup to provide the 76ers with their first points of the game. His next shot, a 3-pointer, fell through the net. His third one did the same. After one quarter, he was 3-of-3 shooting and had eight points.

In the second quarter, he knocked down three more shots before missing his first of the game. His miss did nothing to deter his confidence. He followed his miss with five more makes, and he was 11-of-12 from the field before misfiring on his final three shots.

Afterward, Holiday was asked if he could have played any better.

“I could have been 15 for 15,” Holiday joked. “Other than that, it was fun. The atmosphere was crazy. It was just fun out there playing. I think everybody got a piece of the pie tonight. That’s how we play. That’s the kind of team we are.”

76ers coach Doug Collins was especially pleased to see Holiday bounce back from a so-so first game when he shot 7-of-18. More than anything Tuesday, Collins wanted to Holiday to be aggressive.

“The one thing about Jrue is he has to stay on the attack,” Collins said. “I don’t want him to think like a true point guard. I want him to think like a scoring point guard like a Deron Williams or someone like that.

“The thing I’m happy about is even though he didn’t have a great shooting game in Game 1, he came out and shot the ball. That’s what I told our guys, ‘Shoot the ball.’ You’re playing for a coach … ‘Shoot the ball.’ I don’t care if you miss 10 in a row. Pistol Pete Maravich is my hero, and I heard him say one time if you miss 10 in a row, and you’re a 50 percent shooter, somewhere you’re going to make 10 in a row. That’s the adage I live by.”

As much as Holiday’s offensive numbers stood out, his defense was nearly as impressive. He chased Bulls guard Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver for most of the evening, and they combined for 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting. The two players had gone for a total of 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting in Game 1.

“I think I’m definitely a player [that] my offense is generated by defense,” Holiday said. “When I play defense and get into my man and pick him up and kind of stop him, that gives me confidence on the offensive end.”

76ers forward Thaddeus Young expected nothing less from Holiday.

“Jrue’s always had confidence,” Young said. “He’s always a high-confidence player who’s going to take big shots, and he wants to take big shots. That’s why we have him as our point guard. We believe in him.”