Bobby Portis probably had a higher standing on the Celtics’ draft board two years ago than he did on their scouting report coming into this first-round playoff series, but like a new song that’s caught fire in the spring, he’s moving up the charts.
Portis wowed in his playoff debut, unfazed by the atmosphere and sensing a void at the power forward spot with Nikola Mirotic struggling, scored 19 points with nine rebounds in the Bulls’ surprising series-opening win at TD Garden Sunday.
Now the question is, can Portis have a repeat performance?
In what could be a desperate atmosphere in Game 2 Tuesday night, the Celtics can’t afford to go down 0-2 headed to Chicago for two games and the pressure will squarely be on the home team to restore order.
"I’ve always been confident; it helps at the same time I knew the circumstances of what my team needed from me," Portis said Sunday night. "I went out there and played my basketball game, I took the shots that came to me."
Not only did he make shots but he played with an energy and exuberance on the glass, running the floor and helped contribute to the Bulls’ massive edge on the glass, along with a grown man block on Jae Crowder with less than three minutes remaining and the Bulls clamping down on the Celtics offense.
Then hitting jumpers late along with some emotion and swagger.
Although the last handful of Portis’ shots were contested and he was already in a late rhythm, most of his opportunities came from the Celtics’ pick-and-roll defense, bringing two players to the ballhandler and choosing to leave Portis or Mirotic open to take their chances.
"I’m a very confident basketball player, but I credit the guys who passed me the ball and had confidence in me to shoot the ball," Portis said. "They were telling me to shoot the ball; that helps, too; at the same time I prepared the whole season even though through the ups and downs that made me where I am today."
Portis burned them and it appears the Bulls expected that coming into the series.
"They did a good job, they didn't plan for Bobby Portis to go 8-10 from the field," Dwyane Wade said before the Bulls practiced at Emerson College Monday afternoon.
"But I thought their gameplan was true to Boston. Bobby Portis just had a big game and that was the difference maker."
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Wade seemed to be more decoy than aggressor in Game 1, a strategy he appears okay with as long as it works, as he only took 12 shots in 34 minutes. And considering Sunday was the first playoff experience for many Bulls like Portis, nobody seemed too shocked he was the one who wasn’t affected and didn’t shrink from the moment.
"He didn't show anything (new). I knew what Bobby's capable of," Jimmy Butler said. "I've seen it in practice, I've seen it all year long. He's confident. But your confidence comes from your work. He's out there shooting jump shots every day. It doesn't matter if it's playoffs, game 52, game 82, or if it's overtime. I have confidence that he's going to step up and make those shots."
Al Horford contested a few shots and with Portis hitting them anyways, one wonders if the Celtics will truly adjust to Portis or dare him to make those same shots again.
After all, hitting 18-to-20 footers is probably something Portis will have to prove he can make consistently through his entire career, and overreacting to an unknown commodity while opening up driving lanes for Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo doesn’t seem like the smartest move.
"You can try to prepare for adjustments they may make but you don't know," Wade said. "Whatever adjustments they make, you gotta make adjustments to their adjustment."