Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
'He's got an edge': Portis playing best ball of playoff career
Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis, right, celebrates with teammates as he walks back to the bench during the second half of Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Chicago Bulls Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Chicago. The Bucks won 119-95. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Since dropping Game 2 of their first-round series against the Chicago Bulls in Milwaukee, the Bucks have displayed their dominance and made a statement even down an All-Star starter.
Bobby Portis, facing the franchise that drafted him out of Arkansas in 2015, was a key cog in Milwaukee’s success in Games 3 and 4 over the weekend. In that stretch, the 6-10 forward played the best basketball of his playoff career.
Last Friday in the Bucks’ 30-point win in Chicago, Portis poured in 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting and 4 of 8 from three-point range over 25:29 in the lineup. The Bucks were plus-20 with him on the floor.
“Bobby, he’s got an edge, he’s got a competitiveness, his shot making (was critical),” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think him coming out and making shots early was big for us. Bobby was great.”
Portis’ four three-pointers set a playoff career-high and were his most in a postseason game since hitting 3 of 7 attempts against the Miami Heat in Game 4 of last year’s first-round series. He also knocked down three triples in his playoff debut in 2017 with the Bulls.
Wearing a pair of protective glasses as a result of a right eye abrasion suffered in Game 2, Portis gifted Milwaukee with first-quarter pop offensively, adding 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting — 2 of 3 from deep — and 5 rebounds in 8:18. He had 10 points at halftime then pitched in 5 more to go with 5 rebounds in the third quarter.
Portis, penciled into the starting lineup in place of the injured Khris Middleton (MCL sprain), was dominant on the backboards, grabbing a playoff career-high 16 rebounds. His previous playoff high was 12 in Game 1 of the series. He had 13 defensive boards in the win.
“It was a big game for us,” Portis said. “No excuses to be made. One of our brothers went down and guys had to step up. You can run and jump or you can go play. It’s one of them things where you’ve got to make an adjustment and just go hoop, man.
“The basketball gods were with me tonight a little bit.”
In Game 4 on Sunday, he was strong in a starting role once again. Portis put up 14 points on 6 of 12 from the floor and 10 rebounds in 32:42 on the floor.
Milwaukee took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 119-95 win in Chicago, and Portis got tangled up with Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the game's closing minutes.
With his second consecutive double-double and third in four games this postseason, he is averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds early in the Bucks’ playoff run. And in four starts in his playoff career, Portis has averaged 16.5 points and 10.8 rebounds.
“You know me, I hate talking about my personal self. I really do,” Portis said. “I’ve always been a team guy my whole life. I just like winning. With me personally, man, when I talk about moments, it’s always about moments. It's not how many points you score, how many rebounds you get.
“It’s about being solid, knowing your role, being a star in your role and doing what you do to help the team win. When you want to be a piece to a championship team, you have to know what you can do to help the team win, and you have to do that well on a nightly basis.”
Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and will be available via NBA League Pass. Should Milwaukee win, it will advance to face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Portis has posted 12 points and 7.1 rebounds in 20 career games vs. Boston.
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