Nobody knows where Bobby Portis might have been Thursday night if the Bucks‘ offseason attempt to trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic had worked out, but he wouldn’t have been helping Milwaukee move to within a game of the NBA Finals, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a hyperextended left knee, Portis moved into the starting lineup and contributed 22 points and eight rebounds in a Game 5 win over the Hawks.
Signing Portis wasn’t Plan A for the Bucks, who were focused on improving their outside shooting by adding Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent, in a sign-and-trade arrangement. Rumors of that deal with the Kings leaked in mid-November, but it wouldn’t have been legal at the time because it would have involved negotiations before the start of free agency. The NBA launched an investigation and the rumored trade wound up getting scrapped.
General manager Jon Horst landed Portis instead on a two-year contract worth $7.4MM. He brought a physical style to the team as Antetokounmpo’s backup and quickly became a fan favorite.
“Milwaukee’s a tough city,” Portis said. “You know, some people at the start of the season — they were telling us all about the city and how tough it is to live here and things like that, and you know, the city goes through a lot. So, when they see somebody that gives his all and works hard, because it’s a blue-collar city and I’m a blue-collar player, I’m going to make the shots — whether they are going in or not, I still give my all to the team 100 percent, for the name in front of the jersey and they love players like that.”
There’s more on the Bucks:
- Portis is getting a chance to shine after being kept on the bench for the final three games of the Nets series. He might have faced an uncertain future if the Bucks had lost to Brooklyn, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Athletic, but now he has a chance to show that he can be part of Milwaukee’s future.
- Brook Lopez also responded to Antetokounmpo’s absence with a career-best playoff performance, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Lopez posted 33 points and had seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals as Milwaukee turned to the veteran center to take advantage of Atlanta’s lack of size. “That was a great opportunity for him to I think just get the ball a little bit more, try and use him a little bit more and he came through big time,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.
- The Bucks have been collecting players who fit well around Antetokounmpo, and that combination worked Thursday night, observes Royce Young of ESPN. One important offseason addition was Jrue Holiday, who was acquired in a trade with the Pelicans. Holiday is an elite defender whose scoring has been inconsistent throughout the playoffs, but he delivered 25 points and 13 assists in Game 5. “I just knew I had to be aggressive. Whatever that means, Giannis being out or not, I knew that I had to be aggressive,” he said.