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Jrue Holiday showcases his ‘super champion’ defense in gold-medal win

Jrue Holiday defends against Evan Fournier during the men's basketball gold-medal game at the Tokyo Olympics.
France’s Evan Fournier drives on Jrue Holiday during Saturday’s gold-medal game.
(Luca Bruno / Associated Press)

NBA champion. Gold medalist. Fence-bender.

Jrue Holiday has had a few good weeks.

Draymond Green sat down still buzzing from the champagne and the Americans’ fourth-straight gold medal when he held out his hands, his palms facing his face, and pressed the tips of his fingers together.

“Defense,” Green said, “it’s kind of like a fence.”

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As he held his fingers together, Green talked about how players need to tilt that fence, to create pressure, to make getting through even tougher while clearing the way to go the other direction. It’s like a nose tackle getting pressure up the middle of an offensive line.

Kevin Durant didn’t have the supporting cast other U.S. men’s basketball greats had in the past, yet he still managed to win his third Olympic gold medal.

Those 300-pound hosses? They bend the fence. So does Jrue Holiday.

Jayson Tatum was more direct.

“This,” he said, “is a super champion.”

Fence-bender, super champion, whatever. Holiday quickly found his role on the American men’s basketball team and starred in it. He still trails his wife, Lauren, a former American star, two golds to one.

Holiday picked up his first by setting the tone for the Americans on the defensive end, a truly valuable trait on a team mostly filled with superstar scorers used to being the focal points of their offenses.

“Jrue is one of the best defenders in our league and probably the best on-ball defender that the NBA has to offer,” Green said. “Him coming to this team and keeping his commitment was one of the main reasons we’re sitting here as gold medalists.”

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In the final, Holiday harassed Knicks guard Evan Fournier into a 5-for-15 game. In the semifinals, it was Patty Mills, who was 5-for-14.

Holiday was one of three U.S. players to arrive hours before the start of play, fresh off a six-game NBA Finals where he averaged 16.7 points while spending nearly 42 minutes a game chasing Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

The United States men’s basketball team beat France to win its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal. Kevin Durant led the way with 29 points.

With barely any rest, he came to Tokyo and did the same, the lone American who played with comfort and ease in the team’s competition-opening loss to France. Over the rest of play, he never let up.

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“Everybody he guarded, he made them uncomfortable. And when you got that type of guy at the point of attack, you know, for the rest of us that’s behind him, it makes it a lot easier. Because he’s essentially directing their guys where we want them to go,” Green said. “And so it was it was special for me as someone who loves defense. It was special to play with someone that’s at the level of defender that Jrue Holiday is.”

For Holiday, it all seemed so normal. As he left the court and headed to the locker room to celebrate a championship for the second time in three weeks, he recounted the steps.

He played six games against the Phoenix Suns. He got on a plane and landed at 1 a.m. in Japan the day of his first game. After losing, he and his team won four in a row, finding their footing a little bit more each game. And then on Saturday, he won again — a gold medal now in his possession.

“I don’t know,” he said, stopping for the first time in months. “I guess me thinking about it and me telling that story, man, that’s a hell of a summer.”


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