How long can Jrue Holiday hold down the fort in the absence of the starters? DeMarcus Cousins and the bench mob step up for Milwaukee Bucks.
The Milwaukee Bucks have gone 5-3 over the last fortnight. What makes it is more impressive is that they have done so despite the absence of their star man Giannis Antetokounmpo for 5 out of their last 8 games.
The Bucks started off with consecutive wins over lowly Houston Rockets and troubled New York Knicks. The reigning champions then lost Giannis and went 1-3 over the next four games. However, Milwaukee immediately bounced back with back-to-back wins over the Rockets and Luka-less Dallas Mavericks.
Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and DeMarcus Cousins vs Mavs:
Bucks win on the road, 102-95 🔥 pic.twitter.com/WleKwVfIee
— Fadeaway World (@FadeawayWorld) December 24, 2021
Also Read: “This sh*t is f***ed up! We’re not playing against the defending champion, the Milwaukee Bucks!”: Draymond Green vents his frustration about playing the second straight Christmas Game on the road, away from his family
Jrue Holiday is making a strong case for an All-Star selection.
Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has been out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Furthermore, their secondary star Khris Middleton has been constantly in and out of the lineup. As a result, someone had to carry the load on a nightly basis. And guess who turned up? None other than Jrue Holiday.
Jrue Holiday last 3 games, all without Giannis:
56.3 FG% pic.twitter.com/jdzj248N7c
— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 23, 2021
The 1x NBA champion, who is usually known for his defense, has been the primary scoring option over the past few games. The veteran guard has been averaging an impressive 30.0 points, 9.7 assists over the last few games, which also includes a 40-point performance against Pelicans.
Jrue Holiday took no holidays and carried the Bucks to wins over the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets. Barring injury this season, there’s no reason why Jrue Holiday shouldn’t make the All-Star team this season.
Also Read: “LeBron James believes he had his best Christmas day game when the Cavs faced the Warriors”: The superstar is 12-points away from eclipsing Kobe Bryant as the all-time scorer in Xmas day games
DeMarcus Cousins delivers a vintage performance for the Milwaukee Bucks.
DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins was once seen as one of the best big men in the league. He could score from almost anywhere on the court and has a great feel for the game. However, his career was mired with various injuries and cost him millions.
Last season, when DeMarcus Cousins was with the LA Clippers, he showed glimpses of his brilliance but was eventually waived. The 4x All-Star signed with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season as a third-string center, behind Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. When he joined, not many expected him to make any real contributions this season.
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) December 23, 2021
However, with both the aforementioned big men out, he was inserted into the starting lineup against the New Orleans Pelicans. Ever since starting, he has been averaging an impressive 15.25 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. This includes a well-rounded 22-8-4 game against the Dallas Mavericks.
The 31-year-old’s $2 million dollar contract looks like a bit of a steal for the Bucks right now. His veteran presence will surely help the team in the playoffs. Moreover, he provides them with much-needed depth with the number of players they have in safety protocols or are mired with injury.
The Milwaukee Bucks bench has stepped up in Giannis’ absence.
Over the last week or two, the majority of the Bucks starters have constantly been in and out due to Covid protocols and/or injury. Despite that, the Bucks have managed to stay afloat in the league thanks to impressive performances from their bench players.
The Bucks front office has done an excellent job this season of surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo with an excellent supporting cast. They re-signed Bobby Portis in the offseason. In addition, they brought in Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye, George Hill, all of who are good rotational pieces.
One player who really stepped in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo is rookie Jordan Nwora. The youngster has made most of the situation, averaging an impressive 18.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game over the last four games. The 23-year-old scored a season-high 28 points against an impressive Cleveland.
To put the cherry on top of his recent strong play, he had a highlight play against the Rockets that completely embarrassed his defender. Check out the clip here:
Jordan Nwora’s celebration after putting Armoni Brooks on skates 😅⛸ pic.twitter.com/3VVgVJdCjB
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 23, 2021
With such a deep bench, it is surely going to aid the Bucks in the long run. Moreover, it will help the coach to limit of the Greek Freak to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks’ terrible 3-point defense.
The Bucks have a crystal-clear strategy on defense: pack the paint with defenders and make teams beat you from the perimeter. However, this method has allowed opponents to let it fly from behind the arc with little to no contest by the Bucks defense.
With 3-point attempts in the league at an all-time high, this defensive strategy employed by the Bucks is not a good sign. In fact, Milwaukee ranks dead last in 3-point attempts allowed to the opposition. This issue has been swept under the rug as opponents are shooting a mediocre 34% from three-point territory.
However, it is only a matter of time before someone from the opposing catches fire and beats them from the perimeter. For example, in the recent game against the Rockets, Garrison Matthews nearly beat the Bucks single-handedly, draining 7 threes in the game.
In the playoffs, where every game matters, this defensive strategy could prove really harmful to the Bucks’ championship aspirations. All that being said, the Bucks do have the personnel to deal with this issue, especially with Jrue Holiday on their team, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
What to look forward to from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.?
The Milwaukee Bucks are all set to face the Boston Celtics in a mouth-watering Christmas Day clash. Post-Christmas, the Bucks have one of the easiest schedules over the next few games, as they face the Magic, Pelicans, and the Pistons all in a span of the next 10 days.
Hopefully, by the time the next edition is out, The Bucks are fully healthy once again. In the meantime, they will be focused on improving their record in the league and look to gain home-court advantage for the entirety of the playoffs.