Here, watch those two Jrue plays again.
The Milwaukee Bucks, in the inverse of their Game 4 loss, took a look around while trailing by 14 points on the road to the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter, and said “This is fine.” The comeback was fueled by clutch defensive effort all around, a timely adjustment from Mike Budenholzer, a bounce-back performance from Bobby Portis, and some incredible shot-making from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Wesley Matthews, and Pat Connaughton (among others).
But the comeback was punctuated by Jrue Holiday in the most satisfying way.
Jrue Holiday is the first player over the last 25 postseasons to record a block and a steal inside the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter of a playoff game. pic.twitter.com/D9Mpu5jr9C— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 12, 2022
We don’t need to list out every little detail of the two plays that capped the Bucks’ win in Game 5 of this series; any attempt to do so would pale in comparison to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm and his outstanding review of the sequence from Wednesday night. We also don’t need to marvel over Holiday excelling on defense; his status on that end of the court is unquestioned. Jrue is expected to make impactful defensive plays because he’s built a career off of it. Similar to football’s Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers, an otherworldly defender with a knack for just making plays, this is just what Jrue Holiday does.
What we do need to do is recognize the delicious schadenfreude that comes with both the block and the steal happening to Marcus Smart.
Ah, Marcus Smart. The winner of the 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year award, chosen by a modest margin and riding the wave of an arguably manufactured media “debate” about the selection criteria and pitting “bigs” against “smalls,” has played pretty well in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In Games 1 and 3 (he sat out for Game 2 with a minor leg injury), Smart was a relative minus on offense for Boston, but he came through in a big way in Game 4 and maintained a respectable output in Game 5. All along though, Smart made his impact felt on defense, hounding the Bucks’ ball-handlers and endlessly inserting himself into the action to muck up Milwaukee’s already-mucky offense. We might detest his methods, but Smart gets results that helps his team more often than not, and the hometown Boston crowd loves him for it.
So when Smart gets absolutely blindsided by Holiday – who placed 8th in the DPOY balloting – on a baseline drive to the bucket and has the ball whipped off of his torso and out of bounds, it tastes pretty sweet. We have the ostensible “best defender in the league” getting directly and fiercely shut down by one of his peers, and in a fashion that leaves very little gray area to endlessly litigate over social media. Jrue blocked Smart clean, and there was nothing he could do about it. I posted as much on Twitter; that play carried the same energy that a parent carries with their child when they want to prove, just once, that they can absolutely dominate physically, if they choose to. It’s a valuable lesson for kids, and we can only hope that Marcus Smart learned it from that play last night.
Because if he didn’t learn the first time, then on the very next possession, Jrue taught him that lesson again. It wasn’t enough to snuff out his field goal attempt mere moments before. No, Jrue needed to drive the point home by lining up Marcus Smart’s up-court dribble...and just snatching it away.
Marcus Smart's reaction to Jrue Holiday's strip actually deserves this so I'm sorry for going back in meme history pic.twitter.com/oeUZl3Qz6Q— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) May 12, 2022
In true “Marcus Smart” fashion, he desperately sought to sell his snake oil to the officials. By extending his limbs and flailing in mid-air, he beseeched the referees for a favorable call. “Help me, zebras, you’re my only hope!” his body language shouted out...and was met by silent whistles, the collective groan of the crowd, and the slow dribble of the basketball in Holiday’s hands underneath the opposite basket.
I hope that DPOY robe is comfortable.
The Game 5 comeback was a team effort, and tomorrow night’s attempt to close out the series at home (Bucks in 6?!) will also require everyone to be locked in. The Bucks are positioned to take this series, and the Celtics will resist that outcome with all their might. But whether the series ends on Friday or gets extended one game further, we can all agree...
...Jrue Holiday is awesome, and his two defensive masterstrokes against Marcus Smart were somehow more awesome.