After two consecutive years of regular season success and playoff disappointment, the Bucks knew something had to change. The Milwaukee front office pushed all of its chips to the center of the table in November, acquiring Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans in a four-team trade.
Holidays weren’t cheap. The Bucks have ditched Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, several first-round picks and several trades of picks in order to add veteran guard to a franchise with championship aspirations. Holiday excelled during the regular season, averaging 17.7 points, 6.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, while posting new career highs in field goal percentage ( 50.3) and as a percentage of 3 points (39.2).
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But the real questions were still how Holiday and the Bucks would perform in the playoffs, and a first-round game with the Heat had to scare Bucks fans given that it was Miami that kicked Milwaukee out of the NBA. 2020 “bubble”. Well, Holiday passed its first test with flying colors.
The 30-year-old made an immediate impact in Saturday’s game opener, totaling 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals in 42 minutes. Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and three steals) and Khris Middleton (27 points, six assists, six rebounds and the winning rider) were unsurprisingly major contributors in the 109-107 overtime win, but the Bucks simply wouldn’t have been able to take a 1-0 lead over the Heat without Holiday’s contribution.
In a first playoff game that had playoff intensity, Holiday stepped up both sides of the field. He shone when it mattered most, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the second half and overtime.
While Middleton’s clutch shot was understandably the biggest highlight of the game, Holiday’s block on final possession was no less impressive. With 0.5 seconds remaining, Holiday remained attached to Jimmy Butler, who previously had hit a buzzer-drummer to tie the game at the end of the settlement, and crushed his last attempt. (It might not have mattered if he had come in, but Holiday made sure there was no replay drama.)
It looks like the shot came after the buzzer either way, but it was a spectacular block from Jrue Holiday on Jimmy Butler’s last attempt. It capped Holiday’s excellent defensive performance. pic.twitter.com/QwsSBDemgP
– Positive residual (@presidual) May 22, 2021
“That’s why I’m here. I want to feel this moment, the pressure and all that,” Holidays said during his post-match media availability. “It was fun the first game, but we still have some work to do.”
This last part is absolutely true. The Bucks have a lot of work to do if they are to silence the critics who still expect a playoff extinction.
For one game, however, Holiday demonstrated his immense worth and the Bucks saw exactly what made them so keen to add him in the first place. You can’t put a price on a playoff win.