Jrue Holiday’s scoring is a big key in 2nd Round for Milwaukee Bucks

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 23: (Photo by Brian Fluharty-Pool/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 23: (Photo by Brian Fluharty-Pool/Getty Images) /

The most likely outcome for the Milwaukee Bucks‘ second-round matchup has happened and there’s already a ton of buzz about what could be the best series on the Eastern Conference side of the bracket at least.

The hype around the series took a hit when Khris Middleton was reported to be out for the entire series, but that also makes this much more interesting to me from a Bucks perspective. Although Middleton struggled to begin the series against the Chicago Bulls, his pull-up shooting and self-creation on offense were going to be vital against the Celtics’ defense.

Without that element from Middleton, the load falls squarely on Jrue Holiday‘s shoulders to be the pullup shooter that gets the Bucks’ offense out of the mud when things bog down.

Jrue Holiday will need to have one of his best offensive playoff series for the Milwaukee Bucks to advance

It’s no secret that Holiday’s scoring has been… hit or miss in his five playoff series with the Bucks to this point. The hits have been great! He was arguably the best player in the Conference Finals last year out of the four teams. He averaged a double-double with 22 points on 55.4 percent true shooting and 10 assists in those six games.

In the first round of the 2018 playoffs, Holiday averaged nearly 28 points on 62.7 percent true shooting in a four-game sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. That’s the type of Holiday that needs to show up in this series, not the one who averaged 15 points on 43 percent true shooting in the second round last year against the Brooklyn Nets. He struggled early against the Bulls (and in Game 5) but had a couple of bright spots in that series as well.

The biggest key for Holiday in this series will be filling the void that’s been left by Middleton in terms of pullup shooting and scoring unassisted.

The Celtics had one of the league’s best defenses overall, but since January 1st posted a 105.2 defensive rating which is over three full points better than the second-best defense in that span.

They appeared to take a hit when Robert Williams, their rim-protecting extraordinaire, suffered a torn meniscus and was expected to miss at least the beginning of the second round. Well, he’s back and if the Celtics are fully healthy, the Bucks will find it tough to score without Middleton to un-gum their offense in those moments.

Milwaukee doesn’t have a ton of guys who can hit tough pull-up jumpers as Middleton can so that’s where Holiday’s importance comes in.

He took nearly two fewer pull-up 2-point shots outside of 10 feet from the hoop per game than Middleton but shot nearly 52 percent (nearly seven percent higher than Middleton). He also shot 40.6 percent on over three pull-up 3-point attempts per game, which is helped by his patented stepback jumper.

He shot 55.2 percent overall on his stepback jumper and nearly 53 percent from 3 on nearly 100 attempts. The concern, though, is that he shot 36.2 percent on stepback jumpers in the playoffs last year (28.6 percent from 3) and it’s trending in that direction this year as well (36.4 percent on 11 attempts so far).

Per Cleaning the Glass (subscription required), only nine percent of Holiday’s midrange jumpers were assisted which puts him in the 90th percentile of point guards. In terms of overall assisted make percentage, basically, every Bucks role player not named Bobby Portis is below the 40th percentile for their position group (Jevon Carter is 46th percentile but if he’s being asked to take a bunch of midrange pull-up 2s then the series is over).

Holiday is already asked to do so much on defense (and will again in this series) that it feels like we can’t ask for too much on offense, but without Middleton, that’s the point we’ve reached.

The importance of Giannis Antetokounmpo is obvious and we saw the performances the Bucks needed from their role players in the final three games of the Bulls series, but it will be Holiday’s scoring that will ultimately be the bellwether for how the Bucks fare in this series.

Next. Grading performances from Milwaukee Bucks Game 5 win over Chicago Bulls. dark

The Milwaukee Bucks tip-off their second-round series with the Boston Celtics this Sunday at noon CT at TD Garden.