You've got to remember that Jrue Holiday is only 20 years old. He will not turn 21 until June. He is young, so boyish that when he claims his favorite drink is a Shirley Temple with a cherry, you believe him. There's no doubt he drinks it through a straw.

So when Charles Barkley said at halftime of TNT's telecast of the Los Angeles-New Orleans game Sunday that Holiday was his second-favorite player in the NBA right now, Holiday thought that was really cool. Of course, his hands were still tingling from the step-back three-pointer he hit to help the 76ers beat the Heat earlier in the day.

"I'm going to have to change my player rankings on my favorite player again," Barkley said. "Joakim Noah, he is [still my favorite], but my second-favorite player is Jrue Holiday."

After that, Holiday's phone, much like the player himself during these playoffs, blew up.

This is what Doug Collins wanted so badly to happen this season. He wanted his Sixers team to get into the playoffs so that the young players - such as Holiday, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, and Spencer Hawes - could experience the postseason for the first time. As Collins said before the seventh-seeded Sixers' series with second-seeded Miami began, it is impossible to know just how a player will respond to the pressure of a seven-game playoff series until he actually experiences it.

Will the player elevate his game, bringing it on par with the moment? Or will he panic or - worse - disappear altogether? Some players are made to perform in the playoffs, and some simply are not.

Collins was not concerned about Holiday, but he did not know for sure, either.

He knows now.

In four playoff games, Holiday has averaged a team-high 15.3 points per game, up from his regular-season average of 14.0. His assists are down, from 6.5 per game during the regular season to 5.0 in the playoffs, but so, too, are his turnovers, from 2.7 per game to 2.0.

In Game 1, Holiday scored 19 points, in Game 3 he scored 20. He has not disappeared. Far from it.

Although he missed seven of his first 10 shots against the Heat on Sunday, Holiday had no problem burying a three-pointer with 46.9 seconds remaining in Game 4 to help the Sixers finish the game on a 10-0 run and force a Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday. It was huge, cutting the Heat lead to just one point, 82-81.

"I don't know how many guys would've taken that shot the other day - 20 years old, first playoffs," Collins said.

"The beauty of Jrue," Collins continued, "is he's so much a kid. He's got the boyhood love and the passion and energy of a young kid, but he's got the knowledge and wealth of a young man who has been around a long time. He has been raised in the game by his parents. His brother plays. He absorbs things quickly. He doesn't get rattled.

"What I saw [earlier in the season was] if he got into a rut, he couldn't get out of it. Now, I'm seeing if he makes a couple of bad plays, he can get himself out of that. That's tremendous growth, where you don't let that linger."

At halftime of Game 4, Collins showed Holiday three plays from the first half. Holiday kept picking up his dribble, and it invariably would result in a Miami trap and a Holiday turnover. Collins encouraged Holiday to maintain his dribble, and encouraged his teammates to help Holiday by going to the ball.

In the second half, Holiday committed only one turnover.

It was a teachable moment, one that Collins was sure Holiday will learn from, and a mistake he will not repeat.

No less than LeBron James is a believer. Before Game 4, he said of Holiday: "We love the way he plays the game of basketball, and how comfortable he is in this moment. He is not shy about this moment and is always under control."

A couple of hours after the game Sunday, a friend of Holiday's texted him. He had heard Barkley praise Holiday, and he wanted Holiday to know it. It was a change of perspective from Barkley, who earlier had predicted the Heat would sweep the Sixers.

"I think that's pretty cool, for one because he said we were going to get swept," Holiday said. "And like Lou [Williams] said, we didn't want to go fishing. It was an honor. He's definitely a Hall of Famer, somebody who did some damage here and just in the league period. To hear that from him is exciting."

Call it his boyish naiveté, but Holiday took it one step further.

"Honestly, I feel I'm better than Noah. I feel like I should be No. 1. But Noah's a good player, a hustle player. He rebounds. He does everything he's supposed to. So that's not a bad person to be behind."