Is Jrue Holiday's postseason shooting a cause for concern for Boston Celtics?

Jrue Holiday's shooting from distance has gone south since the playoff has started. It's not the first time it's happened to him or other top tier players.
Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics
Houston Rockets v Boston Celtics / Brian Fluharty/GettyImages

The Boston Celtics finished the regular season first in total three-pointers made (1,351) and second in three-point percentage (.388). Shooting from distance was an integral factor of their offensive attack not only for its extra point but also the spacing it provides within the arc for their stars to operate, it's the modern NBA.

The Celtics have nearly perfected the contemporary strategy by filling their starting lineup with shooters. Among them, Jrue Holiday was one of the most reliable, shooting a career-best .429 percent from three on 4.7 shots a game.

However, in the playoffs, Holiday saw that drop to .333 after five games during the C's gentlemen's sweep of the Miami Heat. It drew concern that Holiday was on track to see his now typical playoff shooting slump. From 2021 through the 2023 playoffs, he saw an average drop of .010 percentage points in his long-distance shooting percentage.

Fortunately for Boston, that drastic of shift hasn't been the case this year. The two-time All-Star brought his 2024 average up to .368 with a two-for-four performance in the closeout game of the first round.

The playoffs are, by nature, always a small sample size. In the grand scheme of things, a few isolated games will forever be on a player's resume. But, Holiday isn't the only one to have past issues with his shooting going flat.

What other players have faced similar struggles?

Choosing the window of shooting .390 or better in the regular season and .335 or worse in the playoffs, there was plenty of data to sift through, including even superstars.

Fred VanVleet

Fred VanVleet draws an interesting comparison, mainly because both he and Holiday were important pieces to championship backcourts relatively recently. VanVleet had his playoff slump just one year before his 2019 championship season with Toronto, his first playoff where he saw steady minutes.

In the 2018 playoffs, he shot .286 percent from three, far off from his .414 regular season average. Also unlike Holiday, this was only over one playoff venture. In his following playoff years, he stayed consistent for the most part.

Dirk Nowitzki

Among some of the best shooters in league history, Dirk Nowitzki holds a place as arguably the best big man within the group. Shockingly though, Nowitzki had two seasons that fit the above criteria. In 2004-2005 Nowitzki averaged .399 percent, and in the playoffs that dropped to .333 over 13 games. Two seasons later he averaged an even better .416 in the regular season and an even worse .211 in the playoffs.

At the time the narrative around Nowitzki was that he was an exceptional talent but not good enough to be the number one guy on a championship team. Of course, that narrative had to be discarded in 2011 when Dallas finally got over the hump. Nowitzki was crowned finals MVP. That year his shooting actually improved beyond the arc, from .393 in the regular season to .460 in the playoffs.

Jalen Brunson

Looking at a modern superstar example and one just on the other side of Connecticut is Jalen Brunson. Over his last two years in New York, Brunson shot .416 in 2022-2023 and .401 in 2023-2024. In the 2023 postseason, that sunk to .325 and currently is at .304 in this 2024 postseason after closing out the 76ers in six games.

What's remarkable is that Brunson has put the Knicks on his back and pulled them to the second round and possibly beyond. The Knicks have faced numerous injuries but still have a good chance at making the conference finals even with their best player shooting below average from three.

Jrue Holiday

When looking at these other examples, the question still arises: Has an integral player with this kind of shooting slump been on a championship team?

The answer of course is Jrue Holiday.

In 2021 he averaged .392 from deep with the Milwaukee Bucks in the regular season but only .303 in the playoffs. Despite this, the Bucks won the championship with Holiday as no small contributor. The context to this is that the Bucks had a plethora of other offensive weapons with Giannis Antetokoumpo, and Khris Middleton. By way of comparison, this year's Celtics team has far more firepower than that Bucks team. Plus, Holiday appears to be finding a groove as the playoffs have gone on and very well might not fall victim to trends of years past.

Boston Celtics shouldn't worry about Jrue Holiday's shooting woes

In summary, more than a handful of players have seen playoff shooting woes. Historically, that kind of slump can happen to anyone, even one of the best shooters of all time. But past teams have proven ways to work through it, as he himself has.

Even if his shooting does slip again, the Celtics need not worry, rather find a way to persevere.

They know they can and they won't have a choice. This roster was constructed to withstand multiple blows on the path to Banner 18, this would just be another one to wrinkle out.