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“Each series is different in the playoffs.”

“Each series is different in the playoffs.”

For roleplayers in the NBA, postseason playing time can sometimes be hard to come by. Matchups are situational series to series. A player who is helpful against one team may be less impactful against the next. Take Bobby Portis, for example. As an effective scorer at the power forward position, the Bucks relied on him throughout the regular season.

However, after struggling with his shooting (Portis was 6-for-18 in the first four games), coach Mike Budenholzer opted to play a Brook Lopez. Portis did not play from games five to seven and tallied just 58 minutes over the seven-game series.

On the other hand, Lopez received 33 minutes per game, a massive bump from his 27.2 during the regular season. Feeding the hot hand paid off, as Brook Lopez went for 19 points on 7-11 from the field in a pivotal game seven. When asked about his fluctuating postseason playing time, Portis understands how to play his role to benefit the team.

“Keeping your cardio up, being a great teammate. All those things matter when you’re trying to win a championship. Each series is different in the playoffs.”Bobby Portis

Stepping up

And a great teammate he was. Portis saw more than double the minutes in the Eastern Conference Finals despite the series only going six games. This is despite the series going six games. A crucial game three win saw Portis score 15 points on a night on 7-12 shooting. Efficient, medium-volume scoring nights are often what push a team forward in the playoffs.

Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and center Bobby Portis (9) with head coach Mike Budenholzer against the Phoenix Suns in game two of the 2021 NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not to discount the contributions of the team’s star players. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton scored 33 and 38 points, respectively, that night. But on a night where Jrue Holiday struggled with his shot, Portis became that third option Milwaukee needed. The next-man-up mentality echoed throughout the team when Antetokounmpo suffered a knee injury in game four. What happened in the next game was a masterpiece of depth. Four out of five Bucks starters scored 22 points or more in a pivotal game five against an Atlanta Hawks team that was also missing their best player.

“You have to find a way to find your role. To find your niche to try to impact winning each series. I was staying ready when my moment was called, and whenever coach Bud called on me, I think I was ready.”Bobby Portis

We all know what happened next. Antetokounmpo returned and led his team to their first championship in 50 years. While the MVP was certainly the engine, Portis and company were the tires that kept the car moving. Next-man-up indeed, Bobby.