PHOENIX – Jrue Holiday knows what everyone wants him to do. No one needs to tell him to be more aggressive offensively. Or to keep firing, that his shots will eventually fall.
“We always throw that out there,” said her dad, Shawn Holiday.
But Shawn has trained his son long enough to know how caring he is of himself. Before Game 5 of those NBA Finals, Holiday had only managed 33% of his shots (23 of 69), including a particularly ugly 4 of 20 in Game 4.
“After the game we could get in the car and say, ‘It’s tough,” 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 eventually his blows will fall.
“My dad thinks I’m the best player in the world,” Holiday said with a smile after scoring 27 points, giving out 13 assists and creating the game of the night with a steal from Phoenix Suns goalie Devin Booker with 16, 7 seconds to play. Saturday night game 5. A perfect alley-oop for teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo followed to seal the Milwaukee Bucks’ 123-119 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the final.
“He just feels like I can do anything – play 48 minutes, I don’t need to go 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 for staying the course is important here.
How many star players could fight on the pitch as much as Jrue Holiday before Saturday night and not get discouraged?
How many would shrug after a 4v20 shooting performance and just be happy that the team won?
“We still won,” Holiday said. “And I know there are other things I can do to affect the game.”
Holiday was phenomenal against Chris Paul and Booker’s megawatt backcourt. According to Second Spectrum, in the 268 clashes in which Holiday is the primary defender over Booker or Paul, they average just 22 points per 100 possessions. Against every other Bucks defender, the duo are averaging 39.7 points per 100 possessions. Holiday forced Paul to make 10 unusual turnovers and Booker to eight.
One of those turnovers, of course, was the game that ended up deciding Game 5.
The Suns were making up for a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter behind clutch shots from Booker, Paul and Mikal Bridges and a succession of three free throws missed by Antetokounmpo.
After Paul reduced the lead to 120-119 with 56 seconds left, Booker had a chance to put the Suns ahead. He passed PJ Tucker in the teeth of the Bucks defense. Antetokounmpo turned to stop his run, leaving Booker with little choice but to walk away from him.
Holiday had watched the game unfold, while defending Paul near the 3-point arc. He couldn’t leave too early or Booker might find the Paul open. But he couldn’t be late either, otherwise Booker could have clearly seen a shot from his spinning motion.
As has been so often in this series, Holiday’s timing was perfect. He fell as Booker spun, snatched the ball from him flawlessly, then rushed onto the pitch on a quick break, where Antetokounmpo was in a full sprint, ready for the alley-oop.
“Honestly, it was a great team defense,” Holiday said. “I feel like we knew Booker wanted to take that last hit and played a big defense on him and turned his back on him and he turned right on me. Guess I was right on. right place at the right time. “
Giannis Antetokounmpo accompanies Malika Andrews through Jrue Holiday’s crucial heist on Devin Booker as the Bucks are on the verge of winning an NBA title.
His teammate Pat Connaughton was a little more demonstrative.
“First team All-Defense play. He was defensive player of the year [play]”said Connaughton.
In the stands, Shawn and Toya Holiday watched the decisive streak with a small group of Bucks family members and friends. They stayed with their second oldest son at his home in Milwaukee throughout that playoff and made it to every game on the road.
They were happy, but not too happy, given that their son had just put in his best performance in the Bucks’ most important playoff game to date, which left them with a win of their first title since 1971 with Game 6 on Tuesday. evening in Milwaukee.
“He’s already been where his shot doesn’t fall,” Shawn said. “But people need to understand that there is more to the game than scoring. He leads the team, controlling the tempo of the game through defense.
“So we just tell him to stay the course.”
Stay the course, and nights like Game 5 are coming.