Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday’s absence taking its toll on the Bucks

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

One of the biggest bright spots for the Milwaukee Bucks this season has been Jrue Holiday, making it easy to understand why they have struggled without him over the last two games.

Holiday had been having a fantastic year with the Bucks, averaging 16.4 points on .502/.387/.791 shooting splits, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. Throughout his first 23 appearances with the Bucks, the guard has been a seamless fit in Milwaukee, undoubtedly making them a better team from top to bottom.

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The guard’s last appearance came in a February 6 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, which marked Milwaukee’s fourth consecutive victory.

Playing some of their best basketball of the season, the Bucks seemed to be rolling at that point. However, things took a turn for the worse when it was announced before tip-off against the Denver Nuggets that Holiday was out due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

As expected, the Milwaukee Bucks have struggled without starting guard Jrue Holiday in the lineup.

Holiday’s absence left behind a massive void for the Bucks to fill on both ends of the floor. Thus far, they have not been able to do it as Milwaukee is just 1-2 in their last three games without their floor general.

Defensively, there are not many players in the league that can take on the pressure that Holiday can, let alone on this roster. Bryn Forbes, who has gotten the nod in the starting unit in place of Holiday, was certainly not expected to take on that responsibility defensively, as that has never been his calling card.

Opposing guards have taken advantage of Holiday’s absence, as the three starting backcourt the Bucks have faced in this stretch have averaged 48.7 points per game. Forbes and Donte DiVincenzo have not been able to slow down these guards. It certainly did not help that they were squaring off against some of the league’s most well-established players at the position like Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, and Jamal Murray, but the point stands.

Offensively, the Bucks have not been flowing as smoothly either, partially due to the drop in playmaking. Without Holiday orchestrating plays for others, Milwaukee’s assists numbers have dropped to just 22 per game in this stretch. That is far below their seventh-ranked 26.6 assist average mark on the season. His versatile scoring in the starting lineup has also been sorely missed as the team’s third-leading scorer.

Holiday certainly makes an impact offensively and defensively whenever he is on the floor, but what he also brings is a sense of confidence that spreads throughout the team. Just before Holiday had entered the league’s health and safety protocols, head coach Mike Budenholzer and teammate Khris Middleton raved about the confidence that the guard instilled into this team with his presence. As Bucks All-Star forward Khris Middleton said:

"“It’s great to play with teammates like that when you know that all you have to do is get to the open spot. He’ll do all the work for you and give you a nice little runner or open three. That’s what makes Jrue so great. That he can create plays for other guys while he’s still being aggressive at the same time.”"

With all of this taken into account, it is not hard to see why the Bucks have struggled without Holiday in the lineup. The guard is obviously not traveling with the team and will miss the final matchup of Milwaukee’s six-game road trip tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Anything beyond that is unclear at this point regarding Holiday’s return, but hopefully, he is doing well during his time away from the team.