NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: It's a blue-collar city and I'm a blue-collar player - Bucks hero Portis hails fans

By Sports Desk July 02, 2021

Bobby Portis revelled in his hero status with the Milwaukee Bucks fans after helping the franchise to the brink of the NBA Finals.

Milwaukee made light of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence with a hyperextended knee by beating the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

It gives the Bucks a 3-2 lead and leaves them one victory away from a shot at their first championship since 1971.

Portis joined Milwaukee last offseason and has quickly established an affinity with a fanbase who chanted his name raucously as he racked up 22 points in 36 minutes on Thursday.

"Milwaukee's a tough city. We were meeting with some people at the start of the season in January and February," Portis told reporters afterwards. "They were telling us about the city, how tough it is to live here and things like that.

"The city goes through a lot. When they see someone who works hard and gives his all… it's a blue-collar city and I'm a blue-collar player.

"When I'm making shots, whether they're going in or not, I still give my all to the team, give 100 per cent for the name on the front of the jersey.

"They love players like that and it's just fun to go out and play this game with home court advantage and get them involved.

"Giannis went down and we had to step up. I didn't play the last couple of games. I kept working and knew my time was going to come. If you do things the right way, things always come around."

There were no shortage of players stepping up in the required fashion.

Brook Lopez amassed a playoff career-high 33 points for the third-seeded Bucks, while Khris Middleton weighed in with 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Jrue Holiday also managed a double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds, and former Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards forward Portis is delighted to be in such company after being released by the New York Knicks.

"Coming here was the best decision of my career," he said. "Having good veterans like Giannis and Brook to coach me up on how to be a two-way player.

"Guys like Khris and Jrue, who are unselfish and put the ball in hole for me to shoot my shots. And having coaches like coach Bud [Mike Budenholzer] and all the coaching staff who believe in me."

Portis added: "I've finally found peace. I'm at peace with my life, at peace with myself and everything around me.

"The pandemic helped me find out more about myself. Being at home for nine or 10 months straight, watching guys on TV play in the bubble and not being able to go there really hurt. But I got a chance to really work on my game and that helped me prepare for the moment."

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    The Brazil international is set to become the fourth arrival of this window after Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez.

    Casemiro, who had three years remaining on his contract with Madrid, brings plenty of quality and experience to Erik ten Hag's midfield after racking up over 300 appearances during nine trophy-filled years at Santiago Bernabeu.

    Indeed, the 30-year-old won five Champions Leagues with Los Blancos - scoring against Juventus in the 2017 final - as well as four LaLiga titles and three Club World Cups.

    Casemiro struggled to nail down a regular spot following his move to Madrid from Sao Paulo in 2013; spending the 2014-15 season on loan at Portuguese giants Porto.

    However, he did not look back after cementing his place in the starting line-up during the 2015-16 campaign, with no midfielder winning more tackles in LaLiga since then (415).

    The Brazilian has also completed 368 interceptions in the past seven seasons - with Dani Garcia (399) the sole midfielder to better that tally - while Dani Parejo (1,666) and Sergio Busquets (1,504) were the only players in his position to win possession on more occasions than him (1,462).

    Ten Hag has been keen to bolster his ranks in midfield ever since assuming the reins at Old Trafford, with Eriksen's arrival the first piece of that jigsaw.

    But by and large it has been a window of frustration for United, who have spent the majority of the past few months pursuing Barcelona star Frenkie de Jong only to hit several bumps in the road.

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