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Is Jrue Holiday the key to Milwaukee turning around 2021 NBA Finals script?

The point guard has struggled mightily on the offensive end in two losses to the Suns.

2021 NBA Finals - Milwaukee Bucks v. Phoenix Suns
Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during Game Two of the 2021 NBA Finals on July 8, 2021 at Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It has not been a great start to the NBA Finals for Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday.

The former All-Star has combined to shoot 11-35 over two games, averaging 13.5 points, 8.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. On the defensive end, Holiday is excellent. He continues to disrupt passing lanes and challenge the Phoenix Suns backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Holiday even had a great effort on a block of Deandre Ayton in the open floor to prevent an easy bucket. He’s doing everything defensively Milwaukee needs.

However, it has not been enough to let his offensive struggles go to the wayside. Holiday had these struggles throughout the playoffs, but this is not what the Bucks were expecting when they sent four first-round picks out to land the guard. Here’s how Holiday has performed in each series of the postseason so far.

R1 vs. Miami Heat: 4 games, 15.3 points, 9.8 assists, 6.8 rebounds, 48.1 FG%, 20.0 3P%
R2 vs. Brooklyn Nets: 7 games, 15.1 points, 6.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 36.1 FG%, 26.1 3P%
R3 vs. Atlanta Hawks: 6 games, 22.0 points, 10.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 46.4 FG%, 37.0 3P%

Holiday was improving over the course of the playoffs, especially from the perimeter. He admittedly got a boost in opportunities with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined during the East Finals vs. the Hawks, but the Greek Freak has returned and looks healthy through two games. It’s also clear he needs help if Milwaukee wants to turn things around and Holiday’s offensive game is the first step towards doing that.

This is a tough situation for Milwaukee. Holiday needs to continue to be aggressive. He took four shots in the first quarter of Game 1, missing all of them. The point guard followed that up by going 3-9 in the first quarter of Game 2. That’s better, but still not great. After that quarter, he proceeded to go 0-5 in the following frame. So if it’s not his aggressive nature that needs to be changed, what does?

Based on basketball-reference.com’s shot charts, Holiday took nine of his 14 shots from what many would consider midrange and beyond. He had two makes. The Bucks wanted him to go away from that in Game 2 and he somewhat did, taking eight of his 21 attempts from midrange and beyond. Again, Holiday only made two shots.

Holiday took five shots inside the paint in Game 1. He took 13 in Game 2. The guard went 2-5 in Game 1 and 5-13 in Game 2 from the paint area. While those percentages are not great, they are far superior to his midrange and perimeter ones from the same contests.

Another problem is Holiday’s lack of free throws. He’s only averaging 2.6 attempts per game for the postseason. That number has climbed to 3.8 since Game 4 of the Eastern conference finals, but it can go up much higher. If Holiday cuts out his midrange shots and pushes the ball to the basket more often, he’ll be able to get more attempts at the line and help the Bucks that way. Holiday is struggling from the line in the playoffs, but he was a 78 percent shooter in the regular season.

Shot quality is the easiest way for Holiday to be a net positive offensively, but another issue is his role in the offense. The Bucks like to have Antetokounmpo handle the ball as much as possible for obvious reasons, but that puts Holiday in the uncomfortable position of being an outlet shooter too often. Expect Milwaukee to run more pick-and-roll action with Antetokounmpo or Brook Lopez acting as the roller for Holiday. This should lead to better matchups for the guard, which he can use to get to the basket or the free throw line instead of settling for jump shots.

The Suns are -500 to win the series at this point while the Bucks are +375, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Game 3 is a must-win situation for Milwaukee as no team has come back from a 3-0 deficit ever. Holiday is one of the big keys offensively to Milwaukee winning the contest and ultimately getting back into the series. Will he be able to successfully adjust his style for Game 3?

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