Portis, on verge of NBA title, makes sure he's always ready

By: Steve Megargee, Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis celebrates during the first half against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
(AP / Aaron Gash )
Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis celebrates during the first half against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis is relying on lessons he learned earlier in his career as he adapts to his inconsistent playoff usage.

Portis provided a big spark off the bench, scoring 11 points in 18 minutes in Milwaukee's 120-100 Game 3 NBA Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns on July 11. That came after he played just five minutes in a Game 2 loss.

In Game 5 on Saturday, he added 9 points, 3 offensive rebounds and 2 steals in a 123-119 win, helping the Bucks pull within one game of their first NBA championship in 50 years.

It's a familiar pattern for Portis, who didn't play the final three games of the Bucks' second-round series against the Brooklyn Nets but averaged 12.5 points against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals.

"I don't sit and sob or get mad or anything if I'm not playing," Portis said after Game 3. "I want to win. I came to Milwaukee to try to impact winning and be the best Bobby Portis I can be. Having good coaches and good teammates to just keep me sane, all credit goes to them."

Portis said one of the first things he learned as a pro is that "nobody is going to feel sorry for you in the NBA." Portis says veterans such as Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks taught him that during his rookie year with the 2015-16 Chicago Bulls.

"They all stayed on me a lot and told me, 'Just stay ready,' knowing you want to have your moment, but just keep working on your game, staying in shape," Portis said.

He's produced a number of memorable moments in this postseason.

When Giannis Antetokounmpo missed the last two games of the East finals with a hyperextended left knee, Portis moved into Milwaukee's starting lineup and averaged 17 points and 8.5 rebounds in those games.

He isn't playing as big of a role now that Antetokounmpo is back on the floor, but Portis has shown he still can make a difference. And he has provided a major energy boost to delight home sellout crowds that continually chant his first name.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer after Game 3 indicated that Portis could have earned himself more opportunities.

"He's important for us," Budenholzer said. "I think him helping and finding a place for him is something we need to do."

Game 6 from Milwaukee is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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