These three players completed Team USA’s roster and arrived just in time for a stunning 83-76 loss to France in Olympics group play.
Holiday Arrives As Missing Piece For Team USA
Holiday was no stranger to battling back in a playoff series.
The Bucks twice faced 0-2 holes in their run to the 2021 NBA Championship, and he maintained his poise throughout.
For Team USA, upset losses in exhibition contests to both Nigeria and Australia were cause for some alarm.
So when the team also lost in its group play opener to France, there were real questions about this team’s ability to bring home the gold.
Interestingly, Holiday’s addition to Team USA seemed to mirror his addition to the Bucks.
Milwaukee floundered in the playoffs prior to Holiday’s arrival, but with him, the team went on to championship glory.
In that loss to France, Holiday, who hadn’t been in the country even 24 hours, outplayed his National Team counterparts.
Holiday led the way with 18 points and four assists in 28 minutes, but that line was lost amid the frenzy surrounding Team USA’s first Olympic loss in almost 17 years.
After the loss to France, Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich added Holiday to the starting lineup and everything changed.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) August 7, 2021
Holiday Provides Much Needed Spark For Team USA
Holiday’s addition afforded the starting lineup with something it sorely needed: a pure point guard.
While Damian Lillard remains one of the most exciting and best players on the planet, he’s a shoot-first point guard.
Team USA needed a player to organize and execute the offense in the half court, and Holiday was that player.
Also, Holiday’s approach as a dogged defender alleviated pressure on the perimeter from Lillard and the other guards on the team.
Holiday often shackled the opposing team’s top ball-handler in much the same way he did for Milwaukee throughout the NBA’s season and playoffs.
As a floor general, Holiday also relieved the pressure on the gifted Lillard on the offensive end.
Lillard struggled mightily in the opening loss to France, shooting 3-for-10 from the floor.
But in the following game against Iran, albeit a lesser opponent, Lillard flourished playing off the ball.
Holiday’s role as de facto leader allowed Lillard to embrace his elite, score-first mentality.
Allowing Lillard to maximize his talents, Holiday also focused on his own role: defensive stopper.
In the NBA Finals, Holiday hounded Phoenix’s star point guard Chris Paul.
In the Olympic gold medal game against France, Holiday did the same to French star Evan Fournier.
After dropping 28 points on Team USA in the group play matchup, Fournier only managed 16 in the gold medal contest.
I have no words. Winning gold is an incredible experience. Watching the person you love the most in this world win a gold medal….just speechless. So proud of everything you are @Jrue_Holiday11 ♥️
— Lauren Holiday (@laurenholiday12) August 7, 2021
He made just five of 15 attempts from the floor, many of those misses coming thanks to Holiday’s defensive efforts.
While Kevin Durant is rightfully considered Team USA’s best player, Holiday was certainly the unsung hero.