PHOENIX – Jrue Holiday he knows what everyone wants him to do. No one needs to tell you to be more aggressive offensively. Or to keep shooting, that your shots will eventually start to fall.
“I always repeat it to him,” said his father, Shawn Holiday.
But Shawn has trained his son long enough to know how self-observant he is. By reaching Game 5 of these NBA Finals, Holiday had made only 33% of his shots (23 of 69), including an especially bad 4 of 20 in Game 4.
“After the game, we could get in the car and say, ‘That’s hard,'” Shawn said. “But we don’t really talk much about the game, because he already knows what to do.”
Be more aggressive. Keep shooting. He trusts that eventually his shots will land.
“My dad thinks I’m the best player in the world,” Holiday said with a smile after scoring 27 points, dishing out 13 assists and creating the play of the night with a steal from the Phoenix Suns shooting guard. Devin Booker, with 16.7 seconds left. That was followed by a perfect alley-oop for his teammate. Giannis Antetokounmpo and seal the Milwaukee Bucks victory 123-119 for a 3-2 lead in the Finals.
Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points, Jrue Holiday added 27 and Khris Midleton 29 to propel the Milwaukee Bucks in a 123-119 win over the Phoenix Suns, putting the team within a victory of its first NBA title since 1971.
“I just feel like I can do everything: play 48 minutes, I don’t need to go out, I don’t need a break. But actually being aggressive the whole game.”
As Jrue points out, his father is a bit biased when it comes to him. But Shawn’s message of staying the course is important here.
How many star players could do what Holiday did before Saturday night and not be discouraged?
How many would shrug after a 4-20 shot performance and be happy for the team to take the win?
“We still won,” Holiday said. “And I know I can do other things to affect the game.”
Holiday has been phenomenal against Chris paul and Booker. According to Second Spectrum, in the 268 matchups in which Holiday is Booker or Paul’s main defender, they are averaging just 22 points per 100 possessions. Against all other defenders for the Bucks, the duo averaged 39.7 points per 100 possessions. Holiday has forced Paul to 10 unusual turnovers and Booker to eight.
One of those turnovers, of course, was the play that ended up deciding Game 5.
The Suns were rebounding from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter behind decisive shots by Booker, Paul and Mikal bridges and a succession of three unsuccessful free throws by Antetokounmpo.
After Paul cut the lead to 120-119 with 56 seconds to go, Booker had a chance to give the Suns the lead. Went to PJ Tucker and crashed into the Bucks defense. Antetokounmpo spun to stop his momentum, leaving Booker with little choice but to turn away from him.
Holiday had been watching the play unfold, as he defended Paul near the 3-point arc. He couldn’t leave too early or Booker could find Paul open. But Holiday couldn’t be late either, or Booker would have clearly seen a shot from her spinning motion.
As has been so often in this series, Holiday’s timing was perfect. He dropped down as Booker was spinning, kicked the ball off him without fouling, and then ran down the floor on a fast break, where Antetokounmpo was on a full sprint, ready for alley-oop.
“It was honestly a great team defense,” Holiday added. “I feel like we knew that Booker wanted to make that last shot and he played great defense with him and made him turn his back, and he turned right at me. I guess he was in the right place at the right time,” he said.