The Boston Celtics, with their feet kicked back on an off-day, sat back as the Milwaukee Bucks quickly pulled the trigger and relieved now-former head coach Adrian Griffin on Tuesday.

Griffin, who took over upon Mike Budenholzer’s exit from Milwaukee, lasted just 43 games as head coach — failing to last a full debut season on the job. Then again, the Bucks did Griffin no justice whatsoever, abandoning their formerly nitty, gritty defense which excelled at drop coverage pick-and-rolls, to now falling as one of the weakest defensive teams in the league.

Is that really all on Griffin? Sure, it’s easy to throw Griffin — who was replaced by Doc Rivers — under the bus considering the Bucks were the best defense for multiple seasons under Budenholzer’s tenure, but there’s one key element that made all that possible to begin with: Jrue Holiday.

Holiday would run that pick-and-roll drop routinely with the Bucks, sitting back while allowing Milwaukee’s bigs to await a shot attempt inside the paint. That worked perfectly and played a major role in the team’s successful NBA Finals run in 2021, but then the Bucks elected to take a risk in the offseason, fresh off being eliminated by the No. 8-seeded Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs last season.

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Milwaukee traded Holiday to the Portland Trail Blazers — opening up the path for him to eventually join Boston — in exchange for the flashier guard in Damian Lillard. Now, to be fair, the Bucks were working on the clock as franchise star Giannis Antetokounmpo made various threats of bailing on Milwaukee in search of a more winning-friendly destination. But to not address Holiday’s absence has only backfired on the Bucks, dragging them down to a 21st-ranked team in defensive rating (116.8).

As for the Celtics, with Holiday, who ranks second in rebounds (6.2) and fourth in blocks (0.8) among all guards in the NBA, they’ve flourished. Coming off a season vaguely similar to Milwaukee’s where not emphasizing defensive intensity harmed them routinely, the Celtics have established a strong back-court tandem of Holiday and Derrick White — arguably the best in the NBA. That’s placed Boston first in the Eastern Conference in defensive rating (110.3) 44 games into the campaign.

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“I was there for three years, and we did great things there, but I’m onto better things,” Holiday mentioned before returning to Milwaukee for the first time since being traded twice and joining the Celtics.

Not to suggest the Bucks have fallen to becoming a punching bag all because Lillard’s only been used to relying on the 40-plus-foot 3-pointer and is getting a reality check this season, but it’s clear Milwaukee isn’t the same.

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Aside from landing Lillard, the team didn’t do much to bolster its bench depth while Joe Ingles, Jevon Carter, Grayson Allen and others departed, whether by signing elsewhere in free agency or via trade — none, however, as notable as Holiday.

Sitting second in the East at 31-13 while clear-as-day confused in terms of the midseason direction, Milwaukee finds itself in a perplexing spot.

Do the Bucks regret trading Holiday away? Perhaps.

Should they? Absolutely.

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In search of appeasing Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee inadvertently did the opposite of what the front office hoped to accomplish and created even more cause for concern. There’s been no other team in the league as talented on one end of the floor, but completely incompetent on the other.

That doesn’t mean Antetokounmpo will hop back on the first microphone he finds and vow to leave Milwaukee right away — or maybe it does. But it does show that the Bucks didn’t accurately value Holiday’s defensive impact and utterly failed at restoring it to supplement the team’s flashy tandem of Antetokounmpo and Lillard.

Milwaukee does have a chance to help rectify its still-struggling defense by making a midseason addition before the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline.

Featured image via Andrew Dieb/USA TODAY Sports Images