On Friday night, the United States Men’s Basketball Team will try to win a gold medal against France in the Tokyo Olympics.
While many oddsmakers are expecting a rout by the US, they need to also remember France beat Team USA in the opening game of the Olympics.
France comes in undefeated at 5-0 after their 90-89 win over the Luka Doncic Slovenian-led squad in a nail-biter decided by a Nicolas Batum blocked shot in the waning seconds.
Team USA comes in riding a streak of two consecutive wins over Spain and Australia. In both contests, theys tarted slowly and then kicked it into gear led by the play of two-way star Jrue Holiday — who outside of Kevin Durant — has been the most vital player on the roster.
Holiday’s defense and playmaking (16 assists, 7 steals) in those two games has been stout. All this, while also allowing natural scorers like Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine and Devin Booker to just hunt their shot and not have to focus on facilitating.
Everything changed once Holiday got acclimated after touching down off that plane, still riding the emotional high of winning an NBA ring with the Bucks. The veteran was a welcome addition and has become the glue of this roster.
It’s also one of the great comeback stories in NBA history. Holiday walked away from the sport for a year while his wife, former gold medal-winning soccer player, Lauren Holiday, fought for her life due to health complications.
Holiday’s leadership and willingness to guard the opposing team’s best player, while also setting the table on the offensive end has been a huge shot in the arm for a Team USA sqaud that was searching for an identity early on in these Olympics.
I remember when folks questioned both the New Orleans Pelicans and then Bucks for giving him those big contracts, but truth be told, he’s the missing piece on any team IMO.
Let’s not forget Milwaukee had the best record in the league in 2018-19 and 2019-20 only to be bounced in the playoffs before the NBA Finals. Enter Holiday and they win a championship in year one with him,
No way in hell does that team overcome two 2-0 deficits and a 1-0 deficit to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy without Holiday. He’s that star player who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work and he could care less about accolades.
During the playoffs, he guarded Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Trae Young, Devin Booker and Chris Paul. Not one of those players had consistent success against him. Just about all of them struggled with him as their primary defender.
Who can forget his steal on Devin Booker in Game 5 of the NBA Finals ? That play was a microcosm of Holiday’s enire NBA body of work and highlights how he can be the missing piece for any team because he isn’t a guy you need to run a lot of plays for. He gets his out the mud with a grit and grind most NBA players of today lack.
Since his insertion into Team USA coach Gregg Popovich’s starting lineup, things just look and flow better as a unit for them on both ends.
He’s been the catalyst for Team USA, and now they’re one win away from a fourth-consecutive gold medal. He’s also close to capping off an amazing run of an NBA title and gold medal in a little over two weeks.
A couple years ago it didn’t like his playing career would continue with his wife’s health and well-being in question. But as only Holiday can do, he gritted and grinded through that and now he’s seeing the fruits of his labor and sacrifice.