Playoff Seed History


This is not that article. You know, the one that underlines how the Bucks have no chance against the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

All we know right now is that the Bucks will play basketball in late April, at least. With a home win over the Raptors on Saturday night, the local team improved to 27-18 in franchise history. If you consider making the playoffs a win, that is. Or, they remained 1-43, almost sure to fall to 1-44 in franchise history. If you consider it a loss to do anything but win the championship. But here, we appeal for something less black and white, maybe more gray, certainly green and red.


The Bucks stand 1.5 games behind the Celtics for the number seven spot in the East, as of April 8. If it seems like the Bucks often finish seventh or eighth in the East, you are probably like me. Which is to say, born in the 1980s. Or 1990s. Some of you were apparently born in the 2000s.

Here is the thing: the Bucks have not actually been the #8 more than anything else they have been. That might change soon, but at the moment, the team has more history as a #1, #2, and #6, and just as often has been a #4, #5, and #7. Coincidentally, they have never been a #3 seed in the playoffs.


So, how has the team fared in the playoffs based on their seeding? Here is a quick reminder. And keep in mind that when the Bucks started making the playoffs in 1970, only seven teams played in the East, and only four of them made the playoffs. Regardless, as you will see, it is pretty difficult to win in the playoffs.

#8 (series record: 0-2)

1999-00: Not that long ago, but this predates the seven-game series first round format. Facing the top-seeded Pacers (and Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose, Rik Smits), the Bucks lost a close Game 1 and then blew out the Pacers on their floor in Game 2. They dropped Game 3 at home before coming back to win Game 4. Home court advantage was the difference in the end, as the Pacers won Game 5 and went on to lose to the Lakers in the Finals. 

2005-06: Every team in the Central made the playoffs, and the Bucks squeaked in at 40-42. But they ran into one of those Pistons teams led by Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Richard Hamilton. They lost the series 4-1.

#7 (series record: 0-2)

1998-99: In the lockout-shortened season, the Pacers swept the Bucks 3-0. In his third NBA season, Ray Allen shot 53.2 % from the field and 47.4 % on threes in the playoffs. But this was still Reggie Miller Time.

2002-03: The Bucks split the first two games in New Jersey and split the next two in Milwaukee, but they dropped the final two games to Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, and company.

#6 (series record: 1-4)

1977-78: Who remembers the three-game series? The Bucks made quick work of the Suns (2-0) in the first round before falling to the Nuggets (4-3) in the semifinals. They were down 0-2, and then scored 143 points in Game 5, and then went down 1-3 before forcing Game 7. Exciting stuff.

1989-90: Michael Jordan averaged 33.6 points in the regular season, and then the Bucks had the misfortune of running into him in the playoffs. The Bucks fell 3-1 in the series, but they won Game 3 in Milwaukee despite 48 points from Jordan. Sounds like a fun couple hours.

2003-04: They took Game 2 against the eventual champion Pistons, but that was all for the Bucks.

2009-10: The most recent playoff appearance saw the Bucks fall in Game 7 in Atlanta. Interestingly, that was the only 7-game series of that playoff session until the Finals, when the Lakers topped the Celtics.

#5 (series record: 1-2)

1987-88: Home court advantage was the difference, as the Hawks and Bucks won every home game of the series. Problem: the Hawks had home court (and Dominique Wilkins).

1988-89: The Bucks got a bit of revenge one year later when they beat the Hawks in Game 5 in the first round. Then they ran into the Pistons, who swept them 4-0, en route to a 4-0 Finals sweep over the Lakers. Such a tough team.

#4 (series record: 1-2)

1986-87: The Bucks went the distance in the first and second round, beating the 76ers in five games before falling to the Celtics in seven games. Somewhere a 138-137 loss in Game 4 to Larry Bird (42 points) at home stung 1 year-old me.

1990-91: The 76ers swept the Bucks 3-0.

#3 (series record: 0-0)


#2 (series record: 9-11)

1969-70: In their first playoff appearance in franchise history, the Bucks represented well with a 4-1 series win over the 76ers before falling 4-3 to the eventual champion Knicks.

1971-72: They boasted easily the second best record in the NBA, and made easy work of Warriors in the first round (4-1). But the Lakers – with names like Gail Goodrich, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Pat Riley – took them down 4-2.

1975-76: In a three-game series, the Bucks won Game 1 but then lost the next two. Fun fact: All three games were decided by exactly three points.

1979-80: Keep in mind the Bucks had a bye into the second round by virtue of finishing second in these days. Unfortunately, they fell to the SuperSonics in Game 7 after going up 4-2 in the series.

1980-81: Taking this space to comment on the fact that this year started a streak of six straight seasons that the Bucks nabbed the second slot in the playoffs, which seems pretty wild. Also, the Bucks had a bye into the second round but lost in seven games to the 76ers.

1981-82: One year later, the 76ers foiled the Bucks again, this time in six games.

1982-83: The Bucks swept aside Larry Bird the Celtics (4-0) after a bye into the second round but fell 4-1 to the juggernaut 76ers, who went on to sweep the Lakers 4-0 in the Finals.

1983-84: In the first round, the Bucks got past the Hawks (3-2) and then rolled past the Nets (4-2) in the second round, but ran into the eventual champion Celtics and fell 4-1 in the conference finals.

1984-85: It was the Bucks who welcomed Michael Jordan to the NBA playoffs for the first time in his career, and it was the Bucks who sent Jordan home from the playoffs in the first round, with relative ease, 3-1. In the second, they were swept by their usual nemesis, the 76ers.

1985-86: The Bucks swept the Nets (3-0) in the first round and finally got the better of the 76ers, winning a dramatic 113-112 decision in Game 7 in Milwaukee. But then they fell to the 67-win Celtics, one of the best teams ever.

2000-01: Special team. They had their way against the Magic (3-1) and beat up the Hornets (4-3), but fell in a crushing Game 7 to – who else – the 76ers.

#1 (series record: 5-2)

1970-71: Champions. Down went the Warriors. Down went the Lakers. Down went the Bullets. This team went 12-2 in the playoffs. They went 66-16 in the regular season, and they had an even better Pythogras record. This is one of the best basketball teams ever assembled.

1972-73: Surprise: the Warriors won three straight games to upset the Bucks 4-2 in the first round.

1973-74: They posted the best regular season record in the NBA at 59-23, and they rolled over the Lakers (4-1) and Bulls (4-0) in the first two rounds before losing in seven games to the Celtics in the Finals.