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Bobby Bifocals Bounces Back

A quick redemption arc for one of Milwaukee’s most valued players

2022 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Blowing leads is something unexpected for this Milwaukee team, which settled its late game problems as the season wore on and delivered clutch moment after clutch moment en route to the championship last season. Still, blowing a chance, at home, to take a 3-1 series lead had to hurt. Bobby Portis, who played merely 15 minutes and not at all in the fourth, made up for that lost time after the buzzer sounded.

Poetic is not the word one would use for Bobby, whose brash muscle flashing gives this team a guy willing to stick it to the other guys. But seeing that clip above feels like a far cry from the stud starter and pivotal offensive force he was all season in the absence of Brook Lopez. All of a sudden, it seemed like we were in a 2021 Nets-lite series again, where Bud benched him only for his rebirth in the subsequent Playoff rounds to follow.

And that is what made Game Five so special for Portis. The numbers won’t head to the Hall of Fame — he had 14 points and 15 rebounds on 14 shots — but with the Bucks down late and needing some sort of jolt, he turned to Bobby over Brook Lopez. And away they went.

We’ve wondered what this team’s closing lineup would be all year long, and here was another permutation of it with Jrue-Matthews-Connaughton-Portis-Giannis. Bud finally pulled the ripcord (for the most part) on Bobby hedging in the pick-and-roll and just let him operate in a straight switch.

We saw it work in last year’s Playoffs, particularly when they don’t make Portis guard a ball handler for 18+ seconds. In the above clip, you likely would’ve wanted the Celts to soak more time off the clock, but there were multiple instances where Bobby was on an island and shuffled his feet enough and contested to keep the strategy viable. And then when he did hedge (who knows if he should’ve), he sprinted to the other end of the floor, composed himself rather than rifling up a triple, and found Jrue in transition.

Offensively, he hasn’t had his three-ball working nearly as well as we saw in the regular season. I think that’s been a major part of Milwaukee’s offensive disruption, his release requires a wind-up and the Celts are lightning fast at showing out on him resulting in multiple pump-fake and drives each game. Instead, Portis paid off Bud’s trust in him and going with size to counter Boston’s lineup with offensive rebounds galore. He ended with seven (!) for the game, and none bigger than this putback in the waning minutes.

You know my favorite part of that clip (beyond two Celts bonking heads) is that Bobby makes the bucket and just calmly starts getting back on defense, a stark contrast to the Celts slow saunter back. Before coming to Milwaukee, one could’ve been excused for thinking of Bobby as a bit of a mercurio, he punched Nikola Mirotic, rattled around the league and might’ve been a bit of an inefficient midrange chucker. Now, that’s all gone, has been since the title run last year, and Wednesday night was a wonderful reminder of the mental fortitude this guy has.

Bud plays you three minutes in the second half of Game Four. The next, he entrusts you with 15, including a closeout fourth over his most trusted rim protector. Bobby Bifocals, take a bow.