May 25, 2024

Bobby Portis is ready for whatever comes his way against Pacers: ‘I’m an emotional player’

MILWAUKEE — Following the Bucks’ Game 5 win on Tuesday, Bobby Portis couldn’t keep himself from smiling as he thought about it.

“Thursday will be fun,” Portis said, as he flashed a quick smirk. “I get to hear some “Bobby sucks” chants.

“I’m ready. I’m fired up, man. Already ready for it, so it’ll be fun.”

Portis knows he wouldn’t win a popularity contest in Indianapolis. After the Bucks’ Game 2 loss, Portis called the Indiana Pacers “frontrunners.”

During the third quarter of Game 3, Pacers fans at Gainbridge Fieldhouse broke out a “Bobby Sucks” chant. And that was two days before Portis got into a scuffle with Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard during the first quarter of Game 4. Portis received two technicals for what officials deemed to be two separate hostile acts, leading to an ejection and a brief seven-minute, four-point night.

With the Bucks on the verge of elimination and the Pacers just one win away from their first playoff series victory since 2014, Portis knows Pacers fans will be even louder on Thursday night.

“Blessed to play this game. Blessed to be in the playoffs,” Portis said. “It’s playoff basketball, that’s what you dream of your whole life. You watch your best players. I mean, you watch all your favorite players play, and then you keep working hard as you can, and then it’s suddenly you.”

While Portis felt lucky to still be in the playoffs after scoring a career playoff-high 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help the Bucks in their Game 5 win, he explained to reporters that the only way he was able to position himself for that success was by handling his business correctly by apologizing to his teammates after letting them down in a major way in Game 4.

“Obviously, I’m an emotional player,” Portis said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give my all every night. I take pride on being available for my team. So, Game 4, little scuffle, whatever it is, maybe crossed the line, you feel me? I let my team down by getting ejected and not being available for my team. And I pride myself so much with being available, so I owed them an apology for sure.

“Just to let them know that what I did wasn’t right. Obviously, during the moment you feel like that, you didn’t do nothing. As you sit in the locker room, as the first quarter goes by and a second quarter goes by, and the whole game, you just sit there and be like, ‘Damn, could have helped impact the game.’ So, I just let my teammates know that, ‘My bad. I apologize for letting the team down and I’m gonna come out tonight and play as hard as I could.’”

While that type of emotional altercation and ejection might lead some players to let out frustrations in the locker room or in the hallway on the way to the locker room, Portis handled the situation differently. With Pacers fans yelling at him and waving goodbye, Portis walked back to the visiting locker room and sat at his locker to watch the rest of the game.

“I didn’t take my jersey off,” Portis said. “I didn’t take my shooting top off. I just sat in the locker room. Just whatever I wear on the bench, I sat there in my chair at my locker and just watched the game. And I was like, ‘Damn, I really could have helped in certain situations.’”

With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard out for Game 4, Portis knew he had let his team down in a moment when they needed him most and all he could do was watch.

“I could see it on his face at halftime when we went into the locker room,” Pat Connaughton told The Athletic. “He knew he messed up and he felt bad about it and, even before he spoke to the team, I just told him, ‘Hey, keep your head up. We all make mistakes. Basketball’s an emotional game, and you play it with emotions on your sleeves. And 98 percent of the time, it’s all positive.’”

After his mistake, Portis was determined to help in Game 5, so he started the day by apologizing to the team for what he did. The Bucks have decided to keep the details of that conversation private, but multiple players commented on how they appreciated Portis’ willingness to admit his mistake.

“He was holding himself accountable, that means a lot,” Khris Middleton said. “When you hold your own self accountable, as well as everybody else, and you say something. I think it was huge.

“He didn’t need to say it because we all knew how he felt about the situation after the game and during the moment, but it was huge that he called himself out and held himself accountable for it.”

Now, the Bucks need Portis, who proved in Game 5 how much he could help with his effort on the glass and scoring prowess, to perform similarly on the road in Game 6, another elimination game for Milwaukee.

During the regular season, Portis had noticeable road/home splits. He averaged 3.5 more points per game at home and shot more than six percent better at home than on the road, including 13 percent better from behind the 3-point line at home. In Game 3 in Indiana, Portis put together a 17-point, 18-rebound performance and helped the Bucks nearly come away with a win in overtime.

In Game 6, the Bucks will need Portis to keep his cool and bring the positive edge the team needs to win a tough game on the road to keep their season alive. Portis knows his teammates have his back as the Bucks try to save their season.

“We’ve been resilient for the last couple of seasons, man,” Portis said, following Game 5. “Looking back on our runs over the last couple years, somebody’s always went down and someone always had to step up and fill a void.

“Whether we got eliminated or not, I think guys have stepped up and fill voids for other guys throughout the years, and that doesn’t stop. That’s part of being a pro. Staying ready, so you have to get ready. Shooting the ball with confidence, playing with swag, having fun. That’s all part of the culture that guys have built that’s been here. So, when one man goes down, another man steps up, and we keep trucking.”

(Photo of Bobby Portis: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)