‘This might be the best defensive duo’: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett gush over Celtics’ backcourt’s scrappiness


“It looks hella scrappy in person,” Celtics icon Paul Pierce said of the play of Derrick White and Jrue Holiday.

Derrick White and Jrue Holiday have made it tough for opposing guards to score on them so far this season. (AP Photo/John Munson)

The offensive prowess of the new-look Celtics was on full display in their 155-104 win over the Pacers on Wednesday. But there’s one thing that’s stood out the most to Celtics icons Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett amidst the team’s 4-0 start.

Both Hall of Famers have been impressed by the defensive play of the Celtics’ backcourt, led by Derrick White and Jrue Holiday. In the latest edition of “KG Certified,” Garnett was curious about how the duo looked defensively in person after Pierce attended the team’s win over the Heat in their home opener.

There was a trait that stood out to Pierce about White and Holiday, saying that the Celtics’ guards “never stop playing basketball.”

“When they’re on the court, they play every possession like,” Pierce explained. “They’re going for offensive rebounds, they’re [playing defense], they’re cutting, they’re setting screens, and they’re going for steals. They never stop playing the game. Like, your star might go over here and wait on the ball or don’t go for the offensive rebounds. They play every part of the game you can play.”

When Garnett said that the playoff White and Holiday “looks scrappy on TV,” Pierce didn’t disagree, explaining in further detail what the guard duo does so well.

“It looks hella scrappy in person,” Pierce said. “It’s like, damn, next thing you know Holiday is coming up with an offensive rebound or White comes up with a big offensive rebound, or [one of them] hit a big 3 or came up with a big stop at the end. It looked crazy.”

In the game Pierce attended, both White and Holiday made several key plays down the stretch to help the Celtics pull away with a 119-111 win over the Heat. White scored 14 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter while Holiday recorded a pair of defensive rebounds and assists in the final minutes.

Both players have also followed their All-Defensive team selections from last season with strong play on that side of the court through the first four games. White has five steals and five blocks with a 100.4 defensive rating so far this season. Holiday only has one steal through the first four games, but has seven blocks and a 103 defensive rating so far this year.

That led Pierce to make a pretty big proclamation about White and Holiday as he compared them to another duo.

“This might be the best defensive duo,” Pierce said. “You know who it reminds me of? It reminds of when it was [Rajon] Rondo and Jrue Holiday, when they were in New Orleans and they played Portland and they was D’ing [Damian Lillard] and [CJ] McCollum up. It looked like that.

“I was looking at the Celtics, they were picking up full court. They got Payton Pritchard picking up. They could be scary good, because when everybody buys into that side of the ball, that changes everything in the culture. It looks like they’re really buying into that side, and that’s what really brings your team together, the defense.”

Pierce and Garnett compared the defensive intensity set by White and Holiday on this Celtics team to the defensive intensity they had together during their six seasons with the Celtics, when they consistently had one of the league’s best defenses.

Garnett shared some concern that this Celtics group might be flying a bit too under the radar.

“You know what I’m worried about with them? You know what I love about the C’s too, they’re in the narrative, but they’re not like – you don’t hear them.”

Pierce agreed, but he also thinks the Celtics can go up another level, too.

“I think they got another button,” Pierce said. “I think they can press that button.”

The Celtics won’t have one-half of their starting backcourt when they take on the Nets on Saturday. White will miss Saturday’s game due to a personal reason.