By the time Bobby Portis – a championship belt strewn over his shoulder – was greeted with loud “Bobby! Bobby! Bobby! chants at the Bucks’ parade last summer, it’d long been forgotten he got DNP-CDs in Milwaukee’s second-round series against the Nets. A title whitewashes nearly all blemishes. Portis particularly had his image polished by the Bucks’ championship.
But Portis was a liability against Brooklyn, arguably the NBA’s most-talented team. Though Portis contributed positively in other series last year, he has flaws elite teams can exploit. And facing elite teams is nearly inevitable in a deep playoff run.
The Bucks might be facing one again right now in the second round. The Celtics have been excellent for months and proved they could make life tough on Portis. Milwaukee benched Portis in the fourth quarter of a Game 4 loss.
Though Portis remained in the rotation in Game 5 Wednesday, his limitations were on full display. He was scattered offensively throughout the game. He got picked on at times defensively.
But there’s a reason Milwaukee fans serenaded him last summer. Portis plays with endearing passion, tenacity and force. always has. It’s why the Bucks gave him another chance late in Game 5.
And boy did it pay off.
Portis grabbed his seventh offensive rebound – off a missed free throw, no less – and hit the go-ahead putback with 11 seconds left, sending Milwaukee to a 110-107 road win over Boston. Once down 14 in the fourth quarter, the Bucks now lead the series 3-2 with a chance to advance in Game 6 Friday in Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (40 points and 11 rebounds) once again put the Bucks on his back. He has learned enough craft to score on even good defenses like the Celtics’, twisting around defenders and flipping the ball in when he can’t attack the rim with full steam. He even stepped up in crunch time with blood dripping down his right cheek:
But the most clutch plays came from Antetokounmpo’s teammates.
After Portis (who finished with 14 points on just 4-of-14 shooting and 15 rebounds) hit his giant putback to put Milwaukee up 108-107, Jrue Holiday (24 points and eight assists) made the final defensive stops. Holiday had a spectacular block on Marcus Smart, including throwing the ball out of bounds off Smart. After Bucks free throws, Holiday swiped Smart on the Celtics’ final possession:
The Bucks were just better – especially late.
Maybe Milwaukee’s game-ending 11-2 run was just random, a stretch that could have just as easily occurred early in the game. Or maybe it was the heart of a champion.
I have a hunch what Portis believes.