NBA

Bobby Portis: "It's a blue-collar city and I'm a blue-collar player"

Giannis Antetokounmpo had to sit out Game 5 but Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday came to the party.

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

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 connects with Bucks' fans

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," he 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. 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."