Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals is on Tuesday night out in the desert as the Suns host the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful to play in Game 1 despite making “good progress” in his return from a hyperextended knee, and it’s unclear just when he’ll return. His status will obviously be something to watch, and for now, I have to give the Suns the clear advantage in this series because of the injury. The betting markets seem to agree.
I’m assuming Giannis will be back at some point, but who knows just what he’ll look like. Either way, this should still be a fun series between two great teams with intriguing storylines. Yes, both of these teams had some injury luck to get here, but they still deserve credit for battling through the war of attrition that these playoffs have become given their own health issues at times. This is the Suns’ first Finals appearance since the Bulls beat them in 1993 (back when John Paxson was a hero!), while the Bucks are making their first Finals trip since 1974. Phoenix has never won an NBA title. Milwaukee has one in 1971.
Aside from The Greek Freak, Chris Paul is finally in the Finals and Devin Booker is getting his time to shine after years of struggling on a bad team. Deandre Ayton is enjoying a breakout postseason. Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday all helped the Bucks finally break through without Giannis the last two games, with Holiday making that trade haul look way more worth it after some inconsistent play earlier in the playoffs.
Then there are the former Bulls, with at least one guaranteed a ring. We’ve touched on Cameron Payne’s renaissance a few times already, so let’s give a shoutout Bobby Portis. Like Payne (but a better player), Portis was often frustrating to watch as a Bull. The Nikola Mirotic punching incident will live in infamy. Trading Portis as part of the Otto Porter Jr. trade still makes plenty of sense, even despite Porter’s flop in Chicago. But while Portis still has many of the same flaws, he has found a niche in Milwaukee this season.
Playing on a two-year, $7.5 million contract with a second-year player option, the former Bull averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting an extremely efficient 52.3% from the field and 47.1% from 3-point range in the regular season. He played well in the sweep against the Heat before doing very little against the Nets, only to bounce back against the Hawks.
When Giannis went down, Portis stepped up as a starter in Game 5 with 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. He had the Fiserv Forum crowd chanting his name, and you can bet he was loving every second of it:
Portis always played with a lot of energy and was always demonstrative, which at times was admittedly obnoxious on mediocre/bad Bulls teams. But that kind of stuff is often endearing on winning teams, and Bobby P is enjoying the hell out of his time with Milwaukee.
The other former Bull in this series in E’Twaun Moore, who has seen spot minutes in these playoffs. I don’t have much else to say about Moore, but remember when he was a #TNTBulls hero? What a trip.
Enjoy the Finals!