The Milwaukee Bucks have managed to tie the NBA Finals 2-2 after a late-game run in Game 4 anchored by big plays from Milwaukee's three stars pushed the Bucks ahead of the Suns to close out the game. Khris Middleton made clutch basket after clutch basket in the closing minutes of the game, while Giannis anchored the paint and Jrue Holiday gave the Bucks more opportunities from crucial hustle plays. Khris Middleton is the obvious star of the night, dropping 40 and making shots in the clutch, but I want to focus on the guy who's going to get most of the criticism - Jrue Holiday.
The last few minutes were a great moment for the Bucks, who continue to struggle to get all their three stars going in the same game. Jrue Holiday, in particular, has not shot the ball well from the field but has been fighting hard on the defensive end as he switches from matchups against Chris Paul and Devin Booker, picking them up for 94 feet. Jrue is one of the most underrated stars in the league, often electing to play the role of true point guard if needed.
More importantly, he has the skill to do so and has the selflessness and leadership qualities teams look for in a leader, and while they could use the scoring boost, maybe Jrue is already giving the Bucks what they need to get over the hump. During last night's telecast of the game, Mike Breen highlighted a moment wherein Jrue demonstrated his leadership towards Bucks Center Brook Lopez, citing a text exchange between the two teammates.
"He (Jrue) texted Brook Lopez saying: 'I love being your teammate, you never complain. You do so much for this team and don't ask for any of the recognition.'"
Mike Breen on ABC Game 4 broadcast
The Milwaukee Bucks are nowhere near being a star-studded team. Yes, they have two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the rest of the crew often do not get any of the shine despite their critical roles in making Giannis and the Bucks successful. The fact of the matter is that if the Bucks are to win this series, they are going to need everybody to play their roles to perfection. This is clearly what Jrue Holiday sees as the key to victory, he may not be scoring as much as the team would like him to, but he is bringing that defensive mentality and toughness to each game despite his offensive struggles. Good players have bad games, and sometimes they have them consecutively, but Jrue is more than just a scorer to this team; he has emerged as their leader.
People will look at the box score and highlight that Jrue gets paid for more than just defense and pep talks, but you also cannot argue with the results. Brook Lopez had fourteen points on 4 of 9 from the field, but his effort to dominate the paint and run the floor put pressure on the Suns' defense to collapse on him. Because of his activity, Middleton was able to play one-on-one or torch Phoenix off the screen and roll, leading to a 40-point performance.
Brook Lopez may have just revealed the Bucks' path to victory in these finals. Play hard and do your role to perfection so that the stars can get going. If Milwaukee's other role players, such as Connaughton, Portis, and Teague, continue to do this, the Bucks will be hard to beat. Many have said that Jrue is the missing piece to the puzzle on offense, but perhaps this is his way of contributing for now because we all know that Holiday is the type of player who is due a big game after a prolonged slump. Phoenix, beware.
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