2021 NBA Finals – One win away, Jrue Vacation and the Milwaukee Bucks keep on monitor
PHOENIX – Jrue Holiday knows what everyone wants from him. Nobody has to tell him to be more aggressive aggressively. Or to keep shooting so that one day his shots are fired.
“We always kind of throw that out,” said his father Shawn Holiday.
But Shawn trained his son long enough to know how confident he is. In Game 5 of those NBA Finals, Holiday had only hit 33% of his shots (23 out of 69), including a particularly ugly 4-for-20 in Game 4.
“After the game we could get in the car and say, ‘This is a tough job,'” said Shawn. “But we really don’t talk much about the game because he already knows what to do.”
Be more aggressive. Keep shooting. Trust that his shots will be fired at some point.
“My dad thinks I’m the best player in the world,” said Holiday with a smile after scoring 27 points, distributing 13 assists and stealing the night with a steal from Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker with 16.7 seconds remaining on Saturday 5. A perfect alley-oop for his teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo followed to seal the 123-119 victory of the Milwaukee Bucks with a 3-2 lead in the final.
“He just feels like I can do anything – play 48 minutes, I don’t have to come out, I don’t need a break. But really just be aggressive the whole game.”
As Jrue points out, his father is a bit biased when it comes to him. But Shawn’s message to stay on track is important here.
How many star players could struggle off the field as hard as Jrue Holiday did before Saturday night and not on their own?
After a 4 for 20 shooting performance, how many would shrug their shoulders and be happy that the team took the win?
“We won anyway,” said Holiday. “And I know that I can do other things to influence the game.”
Jrue Holiday finished Bucks’ Game 5 victory with 27 points and 13 assists. AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin
Holiday was phenomenal against Phoenix’s megawatt backcourt from Chris Paul and Booker. According to Second Spectrum, they only score 22 points per 100 possessions in the 268 matchups in which Holiday is the main defender of Booker or Paul. Against all other Bucks defenders, the duo averages 39.7 points per 100 possessions. Holiday forced Paul to make an atypical 10 sales and Booker to 8 sales.
One of these turnovers was of course the game that decided Game 5 in the end.
The Suns bounced back from a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter behind clutch shots from Booker, Paul and Mikal Bridges and a string of three missed free throws from Antetokounmpo.
Get access to exclusive original series, premium items from our NBA Insiders, the full 30 for 30 library, and more. Sign up now to unlock everything ESPN + has to offer.
After Paul reduced the lead to 120-119 with 56 seconds remaining, Booker had a chance to give the Suns the lead. He drove past PJ Tucker into the teeth of the Bucks defense. Antetokounmpo turned to stop his drive, leaving Booker with no choice but to turn away from him.
Holiday had watched the game play out while defending Paul near the 3-point arc. He couldn’t leave early or Booker could find the open Paul. But Holiday couldn’t be late either, or Booker would have scrutinized a shot from his spin move.
As is so often the case in this series, Holiday’s timing was perfect. He let himself fall as Booker spun, tore the ball out of him without fouling, then stormed the square with a quick break where Antetokounmpo was in a full sprint, ready for the alley-oop.
“To be honest, it was a great team defense,” said Holiday. “I feel like we knew Booker was going to make the final shot and we played a great defense against him and had his back on him and he spun right into me. I think I was just right at the right time Place.”
Michael Wilbon breaks down the great performances of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to lead the Bucks to a win in Game 5.
Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton was a little more exuberant.
“First team all-defense game. It was Defensive Player of the Year [play]”Said Connaughton.
Up in the stands, Shawn and Toya Holiday watched the crucial sequence with a small group of Buck’s family and friends. They lived with their second eldest son at his Milwaukee home during those playoffs and traveled to every street game.
They were happy but not overly considering their son had just put in his best performance in the Bucks’ most important playoff game to date, giving them a win from their first title since 1971 at Game 6 on Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
“He’s been through this before where his shot doesn’t go off,” said Shawn. “But people have to understand that the game is more than a goal. He runs the team, controls the pace of the game through the defense.
“So let’s just tell him to stay on course.”
Stay on track and nights like Game 5 happen.