Marcus Smart was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Junior Holiday would like to have a word with voters.
The Bucks guard closed Milwaukee’s Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday with a remarkable defensive sequence that secured a thrilling comeback victory. He did so at Smart’s expense.
After a Bobby Portis putback of a missed Giannis Antetokounmpo free throw with 11.4 seconds remaining, the Bucks took a 108-107 lead, their first of the second half. After a Celtics timeout, Smart took an inbounds pass in the Boston frontcourt and drove the right baseline in an effort to retake the lead. Holiday had other plans.
The Bucks guard swooped in from his assignment covering Jaylen Brown and swiped Smart’s layup attempt with his left hand. He then took control of the ball, landed inbounds and bounced the ball off of Smart’s body and out of bounds to secure possession for the Bucks.
It’s the kind of play that will be replayed for years to come — especially if the Bucks win a second straight title. But Holiday wasn’t done. A pair of Pat Connaughton free throws on the other end left the Celtics with a shot to tie, trailing 110-107 with 5.9 seconds remaining. They didn’t get the ball over halfcourt.
As Smart dribbled to the midcourt line, Holiday picked his pocket. Like his block from him on the previous Celtics possession, his swipe from him was clean. He dribbled out the clock, and the Bucks leave Boston with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close out the series in Milwaukee on Friday.
Holiday has long carried the title as one of the league’s most underrated players on both sides of the ball. If you weren’t clear before just what he brought to the court, now you know.