5 crucial matchups in Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff series with Boston Celtics

Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart
Nov 12, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

Marcus Smart’s defense on Jrue Holiday will be a crucial matchup in this series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics

An interesting aspect of this matchup will be the clash between two of the best defensive guards in the entire association. Jrue Holiday needs little to no introduction on the defensive end as he is arguably the best defender in the entire association, while Marcus Smart made history this year as the first guard to win Defensive Player of the Year since Gary Payton in 1996. It will be compelling to see how Smart aims to defend Holiday in this series, given the latter’s versatility offensively.

Smart spent plenty of time guarding Holiday throughout their four regular season meeting as he defended the former All-Star for 70.2 partial possessions. In that timeframe, Smart surrendered 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, which included 2-of-6 from downtown. Holiday also managed to tally six assists to just two turnovers when defended by Smart. Given Smart’s pedigree, Holiday did a solid job offensively when defended by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, excluding his less than stellar 3-point shooting. That perimeter shot could make Holiday an X-factor in this particular series, and he must find some consistency with it.

Obviously, with no Middleton, Holiday will assume more responsibility offensively for the Bucks in this series, just like he did against the Bulls. The guard had a difficult time finding a groove during those five games as he averaged 16.4 points while shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and just 34.5 percent from 3-point range. It was an up and down series for Holiday, as evidenced by what was an impressive Game 4 performance with 26 points, only to follow that up with 10 points in a tough Game 5 effort. Against this gritty Boston defense, Milwaukee needs Jrue Holiday to find his stride offensively in this series.

Being hounded by the Defensive Player of the Year, it will not be easy, but Holiday will not back down from the challenge.