It's not often that the best player on the team is also the enforcer. That's exactly what Charles Barkley was. Regarded as one of the best power forwards ever, Barkley knows what he’s talking about when he points out the tough players on the Milwaukee Bucks were crucial to their championship.
Giannis obviously led the Bucks to their second title, but Sir Charles points out that Bobby Portis, Jrue Holiday, and PJ Tucker made the difference compared to previous Bucks seasons. They showed how a few guys can change the character of the entire team.
“I thought the addition of Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis were huge. Those guys are mentally tough. Giannis did Giannis things, and he obviously was special in that close-out game. Jrue Holiday, when he started playing great, they were unbeatable. I thought he wore down Chris Paul, and it showed. Chris is 36 and had never been that deep in the playoffs. The further they played the game, he was less effective because Jrue Holiday was too big and too strong for him.”
Charles Barkley, USA Today
Every championship team has players who know their specific roles. With Milwaukee, the offense falls on Giannis, Khris Middleton, and even Brook Lopez, while Tucker, Portis, and Holiday are responsible for hustle plays and defense. The team had to overcome adversities in the playoffs, such as Antetokoumpo injuring his knee and being down in the series against the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns. You have to be mentally tough in those moments. When you are about to lose your top player, somebody on the team has to step up, and that is exactly what the Bucks did.
PJ Tucker’s “We dogs” speech
Barkley is not the only one who credited Milwaukee’s toughness. Tucker, one of the enforcers of the team, echoed the sentiments in his championship parade speech.
PJ was a part of the Houston Rockets team when the season started but he ended up on a title-winning team. In a weird twist of fate, Tucker defeated his former Rockets teammates en route to the title. In the first round, he defeated Miami Heat’s Trevor Ariza while in the second round, it was Clint Capela’s Atlanta Hawks. He bested James Harden in the Eastern Conference finals and won over Chris Paul to win the chip.
Tucker was added to the roster to provide defense and hustle to other team’s star players. He annoyed Kevin Durant with his tenacity and even helped out on switching to Devin Booker at times. If he can’t match with you vertically, Tucker will get into your head to distract you from scoring. The team winning the title clearly indicates that toughness wins games and defense still wins championships - Holiday, Tucker and Portis were the guys who brought it out of the Milwaukee Bucks, and they have a ring to prove it.