Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday pulls the strings even on off shooting night

Jan 27, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA (Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 27, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA (Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Milwaukee Bucks were in need of one big bucket or were headed for dire straits late Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors.

Just as they had done all night long, the short-handed Raptors had bombed away from 3-point range just to keep within striking distance of the Bucks. That stayed true within the final two minutes of the contest as the Raptors were eager to make it a one-possession game after a layup from Kyle Lowry.

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Clinging to a 106-102 edge, the Bucks went down the other end of the floor and put the ball in Khris Middleton’s hands.

What followed after Middleton set up a pick-and-roll with leading superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the ball fizzed over first to Donte DiVincenzo, then to Jrue Holiday, who calmly drove to the paint with a wall of Raptors defenders waiting for him.

Whereas the Bucks had previously tried to fight through that wall against the Raptors under bigger stakes, Holiday calmly dished the rock back while in mid-air to Middleton as he waited at the top of the key. With more than enough space to sink the triple, the Bucks went up 109-102 with 1:38 left to go in the fourth quarter.

For good measure, Holiday put the capper on the night nearly a minute later as he drove through Raptors All-Star forward Pascal Siakam to put down a point-blank finish and seal the Bucks’ 115-108 victory over Toronto.

Jrue Holiday makes imprint on the Milwaukee Bucks despite poor scoring night.

Make no mistake, Wednesday night was far from perfect for the 30-year-old Bucks guard as it served as Holiday’s worst scoring outing this season.

Holiday finished with a season-low seven points while shooting 3-for-14 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3-point range. To this point in the season, Holiday had only ever finished in single digits back in the Bucks’ early season loss to the New York Knicks. For as poor of a scoring night as Holiday had, his control and poise, especially down late, still emerged as a deciding factor in the Bucks’ picking up their 11th victory of the season.

The fact that the 12-year pro was a +16 over his 34-and-a-half minutes of action while chipping in seven assists as well as seven boards and a pair of steals speaks to the wide-ranging impact he can have, even when his shot isn’t falling.

Holiday’s presence and command in that crucial late-game stretch easily comes to mind when reflecting on the Bucks’ win over the historic foe in Toronto. But Milwaukee’s crucial run from midway through the first half onwards proved to be another positive stretch for Holiday.

The Bucks finished the final 7:48 of the second quarter with a 21-7 run that gave them a 63-54 lead going into halftime. Over that stretch, Holiday generated four of his seven assists on the night as he beautifully set up passes to his teammates, with the highlight being a 50-plus foot laser to Brook Lopez who calmly put home the point-blank finish with 3:30 to go in the period.

None of this comes as surprise as we’ve passed the one-month mark in the Bucks’ run this season.

Whether it’s in the way he’s defended and put his imprint on that side of the ball or had been at his most efficient going into last night’s game, so much of what Holiday does on the court comes with purpose and no movement he makes either seems wasted or is made out of pressure. Coming to a Bucks team that had their concerns of operating in crucial spots late in games or on bigger stages, Holiday’s measured demeanor has already given a different twist from what we’ve seen in previous situations.

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Better nights are surely on the way for Holiday in terms of being able to score the ball, but it’s reassuring to see the Bucks fight through and find their way, all while their star guard provides a balance that will be needed down the line.