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The Finals are often decided by individual matchups and there is none better than the impending chess match between Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul and Milwaukee Bucks playmaker Jrue Holiday.
Paul has been the architect of the Suns' remarkable postseason run, navigating pick-and-rolls, dissecting defences and stepping up in clutch situations, while Holiday's blanketing defence, timely scoring and overall hustle have proven critical for the Bucks, especially in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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Capable of guarding multiple positions, Holiday will likely spend the bulk of his time guarding Paul, while also spending stretches on shooting guard Devin Booker.
"They're different players. You just really have to know their tendencies, what they like to do," Holiday said.
"I think everybody has watched Chris Paul play as a little kid - not saying he's old, but we have seen him play a lot, and he gets to his mid-range and he's great at his mid-range, especially in the pick-and-roll.
"Book is great in the iso, going left or right, pull up. He's athletic, so he can get to the basket too. Just attention to details and try to be as solid as possible."
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Holiday has stepped up in a big way offensively since Antetekounmpo went down injured, averaging 26.0 points across the final two games against the Atlanta Hawks, but his impact on both sides of the ball goes well beyond the boxscore.
The Bucks have scored 15.3 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (112.7) than they have with him off it (97.4) throughout the 2021 playoffs.
"Jrue is just the consummate team guy. Plays the game the right way, defends, can score," Paul said.
Meanwhile, Booker acknowledged he'll have to be on his toes against the Bucks point guard.
"He's a competitor at the highest level and you understand that you're getting that. So, you have to be on your P's and Q's," he said during his media availability.
"I've been watching him in the previous series and who he's matched up with and he's guarding those primetime guys, so I'm sure I'll see him out there, but you have to be locked in when you're playing against him for sure."
Paul, who is playing in his first NBA Finals after 16 seasons in the league, is averaging 18.1 points, 8.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals and while he is on the verge of achieving his ultimate goal, he's keeping things in perspective.
"You always gotta remember, this is a kid's game that we play," he said. "This is a blessing and opportunity to play this game.
"It's balance. I think our team knows when to lock in and when we got to enjoy the moment and enjoy ourselves."
Game 1 of the NBA Finals gets underway Tuesday, July 6 with tip-off set for 9:00 p.m. ET.
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