Season Records & Recaps
2010-11: Missing Games
The 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks season could be described with several key phrases: injury-plagued, defensive proficiency and offensive struggles. The Bucks acquired seven new faces in the busy offseason and were looking to second-year point guard Brandon Jennings and center Andrew Bogut to lead the squad to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
The team saw reasons to be optimistic early, when in the Bucks home opener on October 30, Jennings tallied 20 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his first career triple-double in a win against Charlotte. Jennings would go on to finish the season averaging a career-high and team-leading 16.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
It wasn't long before the injuries started, though, and they followed the team all season. The Bucks lost a total of 275 games due to injury, the highest number in the NBA. For the first time since 2007-08, not a single player appeared in all 82 of the team's games and over the course of the season, 14 different players missed time due to injuries. Michael Redd (71 games) Drew Gooden (41), Carlos Delfino (33), Ersan Ilyasova (22), Brandon Jennings (19) and Andrew Bogut (17) all missed extended time due to injuries. The only player to not miss a game due to injury was Earl Boykins, who sat out one game as a result of an NBA suspension.
With a constantly changing lineup - the Bucks used 23 different starting lineups this year - the team struggled to find their pace offensively and averaged a league-low 91.9 points on 43.0 percent from the field. Several bright spots were found in the Bucks defense though, as the team held its opponents to 92.7 points per game (third in the NBA) on 44.7 percent shooting (sixth) and 33.4 percent from 3-point range (second). The Bucks also set franchise records by holding 62 opponents under 100 points (second in the NBA) and 30 under 90 points (fourth).
The Bucks dropped in the standings early after going 5-9 in November and wrapping up the 2010 portion of the season with a 12-18 record. They didn't fare much better in the first two months of 2011, unable to find an offensive rhythm, and went into March carrying a 22-36 record. From March 16 through April 6, the Bucks held a season-best 12 consecutive teams under 100 points (including five under 90). That string tied for the fourth-longest in team history and is the longest since they went 13 games from January 27 through February 22 in 2006. This end-of-season push kept the team in the battle for the eighth playoff spot until April 6, when the Indiana Pacers clinched the final playoff position. The Bucks closed out the season strong, going 13-11 in the final two months to finish the year with a 35-47 record, just two games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
On April 8, the Bucks announced that they would shut down Bogut for the remaining four games due to right elbow pain and on April 12, the center underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to remove loose particles and scar tissue in his right elbow. In his 65 games, Bogut averaged 12.8 points, a career-high 11.1 rebounds and a league-leading and career-best 2.6 blocks per game.
Despite the disappointment of the season, the Bucks have many reasons to be optimistic for next year. Drew Gooden closed the season strong, averaging 13.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in the final nine games. On April 9, Gooden notched his first career triple-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high 13 assists. John Salmons averaged 14.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists, while Carlos Delfino contributed 11.5 points including 2.1 3-pointers per game.
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2008-09: A New Hope
Following the Bucks 2007-08 season that saw them finish 26-56, Milwaukee made some changes that saw John Hammond come from Detroit to take over as the club's General Manager and Hammond quickly hired Scott Skiles to become the franchise's 11th Head Coach and place a greater emphasis on the defensive side of the floor.
The end result of a 34-48 season wasn't what the Bucks new General Manager and Head Coach combo had hoped for, but there was definitely reason for hope. The club's eight-game improvement from the previous season was the fifth-largest in the NBA and defensively, the club made some huge strides.
The numbers show that while the Bucks weren't an elite defensive team, Scott Skiles' approach did produce improved results from the previous season. The Bucks allowed 100.4 points, good for 16th in the NBA (103.9 points, 23rd the previous season) and their defensive field goal percentage was 45.8, 16th (48.0, 29th, previously). They also improved on takeaways, grabbing 7.4 steals (12th) compared to 6.6 (21st) the previous season and forced a league-best 16.5 turnovers compared to 13.7 (15th) in the previous season.
The Bucks accomplished these goals despite losing two mainstays to season-ending injuries. Michael Redd suffered an ACL/MCL tear in his left knee on January 24, causing him to miss the season's final 35 games (49 total on the season as he missed 14 in November with a right ankle sprain). Andrew Bogut missed a total of 46 games on the season due to a left knee bone bruise (three games) and lower back injury (43 games). Bogut missed the final 31 games of the season with his lower back injury.
Along with those injuries, it was a difficult season from the get-go as the team played a league-high eight back-to-back sets before the calendar hit December (most in the league). At one point, the team played 10 consecutive games as part of back-to-backs, the most in the NBA since 2004-05 when Detroit had seven straight back-to-backs. In addition to the back-to-backs, the Bucks didn't play consecutive home games until November 29 and December 3, the longest wait in franchise history on the way to playing 18 of their first 26 games on the road, also the most in team history. Including the team's preseason schedule, which included a trip to China, the team traveled a rough estimate of 31,500 miles from the preseason opener through November 28. That's enough distance to travel around the equator 1.3 times with the team hopping on a plane/bus 30 times.Despite the challenges of the season, the Bucks hung tough and found themselves with a 27-29 record after a three-game winning streak on February 17. However, the undermanned group struggled from there and had to settle for a 34-48 record. It wasn't what the group had hoped for, but it was an eight-game improvement and a reason for optimism following 2007-08's 26-win campaign.
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2007-08: Happy Anniversary!!
The Milwaukee Bucks 40th Anniversary season was full of ups and downs. The summer was full of bright spots starting with the free agent signing of fan favorite Desmond Mason and the re-signing of starting point guard Mo Williams. Later during the summer the Bucks signed first round draft pick Yi Jianlian to a multi-year contract, as well as saw Bucks star guard Michael Redd help guide Team USA to a gold medal in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.
With the success of the summer behind them, Milwaukee was ready to play some ball. The Bucks got out to a great start going 7-4 over their first 11 games, which included their longest winning streak of the season (five). Within those first 11 games Milwaukee also got off to a 6-0 start at the Bradley Center. It was their longest winning streak to start the season at home since the 1990-91 campaign.
After the first month of the season Milwaukee couldn't keep up the pace going 19-49 over the remaining 68 games of the season. For the third time in the last four seasons (2004-05), the Bucks finished with a sub .500 record (26-56), which included a 19-22 mark at the Bradley Center and a 7-34 record on the road. Their 56 losses were the most by a Bucks team since the 1995-96 squad went 25-57.
Despite such a dismal season, Andrew Bogut continued to grow in his third season, posting career-highs in points (14.3), rebounds (9.8) and blocked shots (1.7). He was among league leaders in rebounds (T-12th) and blocks (9th). Michael Redd had another solid season leading the Bucks in scoring for the fifth consecutive year with 22.7 points per game. Redd also became the ninth player in franchise history to play in 500 career games (3/12/08 vs. Utah) and the sixth player in Bucks history to tally 10,000 career points (2/23/08 vs. Denver).
In the final months of the season Milwaukee made some significant changes. The Bucks relieved General Manager Larry Harris of his duties after five years and named John Hammond General Manager on April 11, 2008. At the conclusion of the season the Bucks also relieved Larry Krystkowiak of his Head Coaching duties after one and a half seasons at the helm.
2006-07: Injury-plagued season
Injuries slowed this campaign before it even started. The Bucks injury woes began early and didn't stop. Bucks second year forward Bobby Simmons didn't play a single game during the 06-07 season. Simmons went down with a stress reaction in his right heel. In total, Bucks players missed 234 games (3rd most in the NBA behind Boston & Portland) due to injury or illness. All five players in Milwaukee's projected opening day starting line-up missed at least 13 games or more due to injury. That total was 125 more games more than the 05-06-season total of 109.
Prior to the beginning of the season the Bucks were busy making plenty of off-season moves. The speedy point guard and 2003 first round draft pick T.J. Ford was shipped to Toronto for the versatile Charlie Villanueva. Forward Ruben Patterson and guard Steve Blake were acquired from Portland for center Jaamal Magloire.
For the second time in the last three seasons (2004-05), the Bucks finished with a sub .500 winning percentage. They finished the season with a 28-54 mark that included an 18-23 record at the Bradley Center and a 10-31 record on the road. Their 10-31 mark on the road was their worse road record in the last 5 seasons.
Despite all of the early injuries, the month of December proved to be Milwaukee's best month of the season. Finishing the month 11-6, going 7-0 at the Bradley Center. During that month, the Bucks averaged 107.6 points per game to their opponents 98.9 and shot 48.9% from the field to their opponents 46.4%.
Near the later part of 06-07 season, Terry Stotts the Bucks 9th head coach in franchise history and Milwaukee's opening day head coach was relieved of his coaching duties on March 14, 2007. Assistant Coach Larry Krystkowiak agreed to a multi-year deal to become the Bucks 10th head coach in franchise history. Larry K finished the 06-07 season with a 5-13 record.
Michael Redd again had a break out season that was overwhelmed by injury. Redd increased his scoring average for the 7th season in a row, averaging 26.7 points per game. Redd also put up a Bucks franchise-high 57 points (18-32 FG, 6-12 3FG, 15-17 FT) on 11/11/07 vs. the Utah. He also dropped 52 points against the Bulls on 3/4/07.
On the season, Milwaukee finished with a scoring average of 99.7 points per game, good for 10th in the NBA. They also finished 9th in the league in FG% (.465) and 13th in 3FG% (.356).
2005-06: Number 1 Pick, Baby!
After coming off a dismal 2004-05 season, the Bucks received an early Christmas gift. They received the number 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. This was only the fourth time in franchise history that the Bucks had gotten the number 1 overall draft selection.
With expectations high and the future of the Bucks franchise staring them right in the eye. The Bucks selected Andrew Bogut with the first selection in the 2005 NBA Draft. Bogut, the Consensus National Player of the Year in 2004-05 and winner of the John Wooden Award was ready to help the Bucks get back to their winning ways.
With the number 1 pick secured with Bogut, the Bucks 2005-06 season was also full of records. Throughout the course of the 05-06 season the Bucks set two NBA records and two franchise records.
Milwaukee started off the season setting records. First, by setting an NBA record by winning their first 13 games decided by 6 points or less (they were also 9-0 in games decided by 3 points or less). They became the first team in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) to win their first 12 games decided by 6 points or less. The Bucks continued their record setting ways when they set a franchise-record by hitting 18 three-pointers on March 18 against the Phoenix Suns at the BC. The Bucks rounded out their record-setting season by setting another NBA record for fewest turnovers in a game (2) and a new franchise record by holding 12 consecutive opponents to 94 points or less.
New Head Coach Terry Stotts had made his way back to Milwaukee after spending the last two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. In his first season with the Bucks Stotts become only the fourth coach in Bucks history to take a team to the postseason in his first year.
Michael Redd had a cast of new characters along side of him in this years starting line-up. T.J. Ford, Andrew Bogut, Jamaal Magloire, and Bobby Simmons were all new faces to the 05-06 starting line-up. With four new faces in the starting five, the Bucks were the first team in NBA history to advance to the postseason with four new starters in their line-up.
The Bucks finished the season 40-42 and advanced to the NBA Playoffs for the 25th time in their 38-year history and for the 6th time in the last 8 seasons. Milwaukee improved 10 games from their 30-52 record in 2004-05. The 10-win improvement is tied for the 6th-best improvement from one season to the next in team history.
2004-05: A down season
For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the Bucks finished the season with a sub .500 winning percentage. They ended up finishing the season with a 30-52 overall record. On a brighter note the Bucks did finish the season with a 23-18 mark at the Bradley Center. That marks the eighth consecutive season that the Bucks have had a winning record at home.
One of the reasons the Bucks struggled during the 04-05 season was due to injuries. In all, 247 games were missed, a 95-percent increase from the 2003-04 season, which only 127 total games were missed. A lot of those games were missed by Bucks guard T.J. Ford, who missed the entire season while recovering from neck surgery as well as 15 separate players missing games due to injury, illness, or suspension.
Despite having a not-so-hot overall year, the Bucks month of February proved to be Milwaukee's finest month of the season. The Bucks finished the month with an 8-4 record, including six wins against one loss in Milwaukee. It was just the third time since 1990-91 that the Bucks had a winning record in the year's second month. As a team, Milwaukee shot 47.4 percent from the floor en route to 100.6 points per game against 96.0 points for their opponents.
Michael Redd continued to provide plenty of highlights in his fifth season as a Buck. Redd's career-high average of 23.0 points per game ranked him 11th in the league and continued his string of improving his points per game every season he's been in the league. He also became the second player in Bucks history to lead the squad in scoring 50 or more times in a season (50). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the other.
No part of Milwaukee's season would end up going in the right direction, even on the road. The Bucks ended the 04-05 season on a 14-game road losing streak, the fourth longest road losing streak in franchise history. The Bucks also went 0-15 against Western Conference foes on the road.
Although the Bucks did have a disappointing season, they had no idea what was in store for them come May 2005.
2003-04: Porter to the Playoffs
The 03-04 season was the start of something new for the Bucks, this time on the coaching side. The George Karl era had come to an end when the Bucks hired Terry Porter as the franchise's 8th head coach.
After saying goodbye to their top two scores in Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson the previous season, the Bucks ended this season with a 41-41 (.500) mark. They finished tops in the Eastern Conference in scoring at 98.0 points per game and 3rd in the league in turnovers per game at 13.54. They made the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and Terry Porter was the third coach in franchise history to make the playoffs in his first season.
After proving himself a season ago as one of the premiere sixth men in the league, Michael Redd had his first chance to start and he made the most of it. Redd had a break out season averaging a team-high 21.7 points. He also went on to be the Eastern Conference Player of the Month in January and was selected to his first NBA All-Star game.
With their go-to-guy in place, the Bucks added speed to their backcourt when they drafted point guard T.J. Ford with the 8th pick in the 2003 draft. Ford was the Bucks first top ten pick since the 1998 NBA draft. Ford was having a tremendous rookie season, until he went down in late February with a spinal cord bruise. He was leading all rookies and was 8th in the league in assists (6.5).
The Bucks finished the season with a 33-21 mark against Eastern Conference opponents. They beat Indiana, the East's top team, three out of four times and were one of three teams (New Jersey and Indiana) to beat every other team in the Eastern Conference.
At the end of the regular season, several Bucks were nominated for awards. Michael Redd was named to the NBA All-Third Team and finished fifth in voting for Most Improved Player. T.J. Ford was named to the All-Rookie Second Team, Terry Porter finished tied for third in Coach of the Year voting and Desmond Mason finished sixth in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
2002-03: Revamped Bucks Return to Playoffs
It was a season of change for the Bucks, who rebuilt their team with athleticism and an improved defensive mindset while remaining a factor in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
The Bucks said goodbye to two of the top scoring players in their history, and still finished 42-40 and in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
Long defined by the high-scoring duo of Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson, the Bucks began the transformation on August 2, sending Robinson to Atlanta in exchange for Toni Kukoc and a #1 pick in the 2003 Draft. In Robinson, the Bucks bid adieu to the second leading scorer in team history after eight seasons and 12,010 points.
Picking up some of that scoring slack was third-year swingman Michael Redd. The team averted disaster in October when they matched Redd's offer sheet from the Dallas Mavericks. Redd, following a breakout season a year ago, distinguished himself as one of the league's top sixth men. On March 30, his 250th career trey qualified him third on the NBA's all-time three-point percentage leaders (.438). He was at his best in clutch situations, shooting 54.5 percent in the fourth quarter.
The new-look Bucks improved their athleticism via the draft, adding Marcus Haislip in the first round and Dan Gadzuric in the second round. Gadzuric, from UCLA became the first rookie since Ray Allen to start for the Bucks on opening day and the first rookie ever to start an opening game for George Karl.
Despite the revamped roster, the Bucks trudged through the beginning of the season with a 14-20 record before surging above.500 with a 13-3 stretch from Jan. 10-Feb. 14. Though they enjoyed a degree of success, the Bucks felt they still needed to make a move to improve the team's defense. No one expected that that move would involve Allen, a three-time All-Star, who was dealt on Feb. 20 with two other players and a first-round draft pick in exchange for nine-time All-Star Gary Payton and swingman Desmond Mason.
The team's new nucleus of Mason (14.8 ppg), Payton (19.6), Kukoc (11.6), Redd (15.1) and holdovers Sam Cassell (19.7 ppg) and Tim Thomas (13.3 ppg) stumbled to a 7-12 mark in their first 19 games, but closed the season with eight wins in their final nine games to make the playoffs. The Bucks postseason hopes were derailed by a New Jersey team that prevailed four games to two en route to the NBA Finals.
Cassell, who had a team-high 1,536 points and 450 assists, became the 249th player in NBA history to score 10,000 points on Feb. 21. Earlier in the season, on Dec. 9, he recorded the first triple-double of his career in his 602nd career game.
Karl continued to build his coaching legacy, finishing at or above .500 for the 12th consecutive season and becoming the 14th coach in NBA history to win 700 games, a milestone achieved on March 22 with a win over New Orleans. On the final day of the regular season, he passed John MacLeod for 13th on the all-time win list with his 708th NBA win.
2001-02: Injury Bug Bites Bucks
With expectations high just one year after advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks faced a foe that, in recent history, was unfamiliar - injuries.
Among the team's top five scorers, a total of 56 games were missed because of injury, far exceeding the 22 games missed by the team's top five scorers in the two previous seasons.
Free agent addition Anthony Mason was the only Bucks player to start all 82 games, as the Bucks stumbled to a 41-41 record, one game shy of a playoff berth. Despite the decline, the Bucks finished at .500 or better for the fourth consecutive season under George Karl.
There were individual successes for the Bucks, who saw six Bucks players match or eclipse career-high scoring nights, including Ray Allen, who scored 47 points and hit a franchise-record 10 three-pointers in an April 14 win over Charlotte.
Michael Redd, who blossomed in his second season, produced most of his career high 29 points in one quarter. In a 115-76 win over Houston on February 20, Redd hit an NBA-record eight three-pointers in the final period and the Bucks hit a franchise-record 16 treys in the game.
Glenn Robinson started the season ranked #202 on the NBA's all-time scoring list, but he spent much of the season in the passing lane. In what would be his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, Robinson passed the 12,000-point mark for his career, becoming only the 159th player in league history to reach that milestone. En route, Robinson passed Sidney Moncrief (11,594) for second on the Bucks all-time scoring list, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
George Karl continued his assault on the coaching record books, becoming the 15th coach in league history to notch 650 wins (1/19 vs. Atlanta). With a 95-88 victory against Denver on March 28 at the Bradley Center, Karl earned the 1,500th win in Bucks history.
More fans saw the Bucks than ever before, as an average of 18,178 - including a record 25 sellouts - watched Ray Allen earn his third consecutive All-Star appearance.
2000-01: Team Jells; Earns Central Division Crown
The Bucks steady progress under George Karl took a dramatic upward turn in 2000-01. After a 3-9 start, the Bucks were 49-21, trailing only San Antonio (49-20) as the hottest team in the NBA over the final five months.
The 52-30 overall mark earned the team its first Central Division title since 1986. Milwaukee's 31-10 home record was the best in the Eastern Conference; the 21 road wins were the most since 1986.
Throughout the season, many milestones were conquered. George Karl became the 17th coach in NBA history - and sixth fastest - to reach 600 wins, with a 116-111 win over Denver on January 31. Twelve days prior in Charlotte, Karl presided over his 1,000th game as an NBA coach. Glenn Robinson became the fifth player in Bucks history to score 10,000 points. In so doing, he was the first member of his draft class or the preceding draft class to top the 10,000-point barrier.
Robinson and Ray Allen again earned all-star honors, and shared the team scoring title with 22.0 ppg. Allen, who averaged career-best 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists, was voted to the All-NBA Third Team.
Milwaukee played its best against the best, accruing an 8-0 record against the top four teams in the Western Conference.
The Bucks saved their most inspired play, though, for the postseason. After a dominant first-round win over the Orlando Magic, the Bucks overcame a 3-2 series deficit against Charlotte, winning games six and seven to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1986.
In a memorable seven-game series vs. Philadelphia, Ray Allen averaged 27.1 ppg, including 51 percent three-point shooting, to put the NBA Finals within reach. His 41-point outburst in Game Six forced a deciding game and marked the highest single-game playoff output since Terry Cummings scored 41 against the Sixers in 1985.
In Game Seven, Allen Iverson's 44 points were the difference, and Philadelphia advanced. Milwaukee's 10-8 postseason was proof, though, that the Bucks were back.
1999-2000: All-Stars Take Another Step Forward
The Bucks second straight playoff berth was in severe jeopardy on March 24, when they were 32-37. An inspired final month, during which the team finished 10-3, earned the Bucks the final playoff seed in the next to last game of the season.
En route to the 42-40 record, their best 82-game mark in nine seasons, the Bucks played their best road basketball since 1985-86, going 19-22 away from the Bradley Center.
Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson each appeared in his first All-Star Game, giving the Bucks their first All-Star duo since Ricky Pierce and Alvin Robertson in 1991. Allen (22.1 ppg) and Robinson (20.9) carried the Bucks scoring load during the regular season, with an assist - literally - from Sam Cassell, who set a franchise record with 729 `dimes' (9.0 apg) and chipped in a career-best 18.6 ppg. MoHead Coach George Karl continued to lead the Bucks to new heights, reaching the 50-win mark faster than any other coach in Bucks history (89 games).
In the postseason, the Bucks drew the Indiana Pacers for the second straight year. Unlike last year, the resurgent Bucks were no pushovers. They won their first playoff game in 10 seasons at Indiana, and forced a deciding fifth game against the top-seeded Pacers.
A 41-point explosion from Reggie Miller saved the day for Indiana, which won, 96-95, on a three-pointer by Travis Best in the final seconds. After the game, Miller would graciously say that the better team lost the series.
The series was a coming out party of sorts for forward Tim Thomas, who averaged 15.4 ppg in the series and was rewarded in the off-season with a multi-year contract to remain with the Bucks.
1998-99: It's the Playoffs, By George
George Karl never missed the playoffs in 6 1/2 seasons as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics. So when the Bucks named Karl as their new head coach, there was reason to believe Milwaukee's seven-year postseason drought would end.
And end it did, as Milwaukee went 28-22 in the lockout-shortened season before losing to Indiana in the first round of the playoffs. Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen continued to develop as one of the league's top scoring tandems, averaging 18.4 and 17.1 points per game, respectively.
Milwaukee made several roster moves, beginning with a draft-day trade for Robert Traylor. The forward/center started 43 games and led all NBA rookies with a .537 shooting percentage. The Bucks also signed free-agent sharpshooter Dell Curry, who was tops in the league with a .476 percentage (69-for-145) from three-point range.
In a three-team, eight-player deal on March 11, Milwaukee acquired point guard Sam Cassell from New Jersey and sent Terrell Brandon to Minnesota. In a separate trade on the same day, The Bucks received promising young forward Tim Thomas from Philadelphia for Tyrone Hill.
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1997-98: Waiting their Turn
Led by the trio of Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and new addition Terrell Brandon, the Milwaukee Bucks had hoped to return to the playoffs this season. A wave of injuries and a tough Eastern Conference schedule sidelined that quest, but the new-look Bucks did improve to 36-46.
On September 25, the Bucks sent Vin Baker to Seattle in a three-team trade that sent Brandon, forward Tyrone Hill and Cleveland's 1998 first round pick to Milwaukee. It was one of those rare trades that truly seemed to benefit each team. Brandon, a true All-Star playmaker, added offensive versatility to the team while Hill led the team in rebounds with 10.7 rpg . Another new addition, center Ervin Johnson, helped the team improve on defense with a team-high 1.95 bpg.
Milwaukee began the season at 11-10 before Brandon suffered a severely sprained ankle in mid-December. He ended up missing a total of 32 games over the course of the season. When healthy, Brandon averaged 16.8 points, a team-high 7.7 assists and 2.22 steals per game.
Robinson had another big season for the Bucks before an injury to his left leg ended his season in early March. He led the team in scoring at 23.4 points and he improved on defense. The Bucks team captain scored a season-high 42 points at Chicago on January 2 and collected 39 points in a 115-112 overtime win over New York on January 29.
With Baker in Seattle, Allen became the second offensive option for Milwaukee and flourished. He was the only Buck to play in all 82 games this season and averaged 19.5 ppg, up from last year's 13.4 ppg as a rookie. He also finished third in the league in free throw percentage at .875, and improved in every statistical category. Allen scored a career-high 40 points on April 18 against Minnesota and hit a franchise record seven three-pointers on January 16 versus Chicago. In addition, Allen gained notoriety with a leading role in Spike Lee's basketball film He Got Game.
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1996-97: Early Season Surge Can't Carry Bucks
The arrival of new head coach Chris Ford and rookie guard Ray Allen gave the Bucks a new direction. And while their 33-49 record represents an improvement of eight games from a year ago, it still left the Bucks well shy of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Under new coach Chris Ford, the Bucks appeared to be on their way, breaking out of the gate with a 15-11 start, including wins over Seattle and Houston. Although they couldn't maintain that momentum, they continued to develop their frontcourt tandem of Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson and added an outside threat, Allen, to complement their inside game.
Baker, who averaged 21.0 ppg and 10.3 rpg, made the All-Star time for the third straight season, and became the first Buck since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1974-75) to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a season. Robinson finished 13th in the league in scoring (21.1 ppg), as the Bucks were one of only three teams with two players averaging better than 20 points per game. Allen, the fifth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, enjoyed a fine rookie season, scoring 13.4 points and earning a berth on the NBA's All-Rookie Second Team.
At season's end, General Manager Mike Dunleavy, who had coached the Bucks from 1992-96, announced his resignation to pursue a head coaching job in Portland. In the offseason, the Bucks added another piece to their puzzle when they acquired shotblocking center Ervin Johnson in a trade with the Denver Nuggets.
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1995-96: Stars Emerge, But Losses Mount
Although talk in the preseason was of a return to the playoffs, the 1995-96 Bucks fell to 25-57, the second-worst season in franchise history. Only in 1993-94 (20-62) did the Bucks win fewer games.
The Bucks, led by developing superstars Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson, were considered a team with playoff potential. But the team never jelled. The Bucks fell victim to a rugged early schedule that included the dreaded "Texas Triangle" and won only two of their first eight games, setting the tone for a disappointing year.
In late November, Mike Dunleavy shook up the roster with a pair of trades that resulted in the acquisition of Benoit Benjamin and Sherman Douglas. The trades left the Bucks with only five players on their roster from the previous season. Despite the shakeup, the Bucks continued to struggle.
Individually, Robinson and Baker continued to develop into one of the league's top frontcourt tandems. Baker, in his third season, was named to the All-Star Game for the second straight time. He was one of the league's leaders in points (21.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.9 rpg). Robinson chipped in 20.2 ppg, meaning the duo supplied more than 43 percent of the team's points, numbers the likes of which hadn't been seen in Milwaukee since 1971-72, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Dandridge scored 45.7 percent of the Bucks' scoring punch.
After the disappointing season, Dunleavy stepped down as head coach, but would remain as the team's Vice President of Basketball Operations/General Manager. Among his offseason moves; a draft-day trade that gave Milwaukee an outside scoring threat in Ray Allen, as well as a future first round pick.
1994-95: "Big Dog," Baker Bring Excitement Back To Milwaukee
The young Milwaukee Bucks had reason to be optimistic in 1994-95. With No. 1 draft pick Glenn Robinson on board, the team showed a 14-game improvement over its 1993-94 mark. In the season's final week Milwaukee found itself in the hunt for the final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference, but the squad finally fell off the pace.
Robinson teamed with All-Star Vin Baker to give the Bucks a formidable forward duo. His average of 21.9 points per game ranked 10th in the league, first among NBA newcomers, and was better than that of any Bucks rookie since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (Despite Robinson's stellar performance, the Dallas Mavericks' Jason Kidd and the Detroit Pistons' Grant Hill shared Rookie of the Year honors.) Baker averaged 17.7 points and was 12th in the NBA in rebounding with 10.3 boards per contest. He also led the league in minutes played with 3,361, the highest total by a Bucks player since Abdul-Jabbar logged 3,548 minutes in 1973-74.
Guard Todd Day improved his production, averaging 16.0 points and canning 163 of 418 three-point shots for a .390 percentage, 25th in the NBA. Eric Murdock and Lee Mayberry continued to share the point guard duties, combining for 18.8 points and 9.8 assists per game. At center, aging Alton Lister and newcomer Eric Mobley did much of the work in the post and combined to average 6.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Milwaukee was the NBA's healthiest team in 1994-95; its players missed a combined total of only 10 games.
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1993-94: Bucks Lose Games But Win Lottery
The 1993-94 Bucks opened the season with a win and closed with the No. 1 selection in the draft. In between, there was little to get excited about. The team finished at 20-62, tied for the second-worst record in the league. Milwaukee failed to qualify for the playoffs, marking the first time in the franchise's history that the team failed to reach postseason play for three consecutive seasons.
Point guard Eric Murdock led the team in scoring (15.3 ppg) and assists (6.7 apg). The other bright spot was rookie Vin Baker, who made the NBA All-Rookie First Team and was the Bucks' top rebounder (7.6 rpg). As a team, the Bucks finished 24th in the NBA in field goal percentage, 25th in scoring, and 26th in free throw percentage. Defensively, they yielded the third-highest field goal percentage and finished next-to-last in rebounding.
However, there was a silver lining, and it arrived wearing a Purdue Boilermakers uniform. After Milwaukee won the draft lottery, the Bucks selected forward Glenn Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. Robinson, who led the nation with 30.3 points per game in 1993-94, was every organization's College Player of the Year.
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1992-93: "May-Day": Bucks Struggle Through Youth Movement
The 25th edition of the Milwaukee Bucks opened the 1992-93 season with eight new faces, the most important of which was local favorite Mike Dunleavy, who had returned from a two-year coaching stint with the Los Angeles Lakers to take the reins in Milwaukee as head coach and vice president of basketball operations. Dunleavy began a major rebuilding effort by bringing in seven young players-Alaa Abdelnaby, Anthony Avent, Theodore "Blue" Edwards, Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, Eric Murdock, and Anthony Pullard. It marked the single largest turnover of players from one season to the next in club history. (Murdock and Edwards came over from Utah in a trade that sent Jay Humphries and Krystkowiak to the Jazz.)
Many of the team's key players were young-Avent, Day, Mayberry, and Murdock were all 24 years old or younger, and Edwards was 27. The result of their youthful inexperience was a 28-54 record and a seventh-place finish in the Central Division.
Day, a first-round draft choice, proved that he could shoot (but not always with accuracy), averaging 13.8 points on .432 field goal shooting. Brickowski and Edwards were the team's top scorers with 16.9 points per game each.
1991-92: The Glory Days Are Over Milwaukee's streak of 12 consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances came to an end in 1991-92 as the Bucks tied for sixth place in the Central Division with a 31-51 mark. Through 1990-91, Milwaukee had never finished lower than fourth and had placed in the top three in the Central Division in 9 of 11 seasons.
The Bucks led the NBA in steals (863) for the third straight year and ranked second in turnovers forced (17.3 per game). The team also finished second in the league in three-point field goal percentage at .369 (371-of-1,005). The main marksman was Ellis, who set a club record with 138 three-pointers, while 6-11 Brad Lohaus hit 57 from long range.
But Lohaus's three-point tendency exposed the Bucks' weak point-inside scoring. Frank Brickowski, an undersized center at 6-9 who had been obtained in a 1990 trade with San Antonio for Paul Pressey, was the team's best low-post threat at 11.4 points per game. The Bucks also tried to get help from veteran Moses Malone, who contributed 15.6 points per contest. In December 1991, with an 8-9 record, Del Harris relinquished his head coaching duties to concentrate on overall operations, and assistant coach Frank Hamblen assumed the head coaching job for the remainder of the season.
1989-91: Milwaukee Trades For A "Cadillac"
For the 1989-90 season, the Bucks had several new faces and a wealth of injuries. The most significant shakeup sent Cummings to San Antonio in exchange for Alvin Robertson and Greg "Cadillac" Anderson. Milwaukee lost more players for more games because of injuries than any other NBA team. Key players Krystkowiak and Pressey missed major portions of the season. But the club still managed a 44-38 record and a third-place finish in the Central Division.
The squad's most potent weapon came from the bench in the form of Pierce, a deadeye shooter with a knack for drawing fouls. He became the first reserve ever to lead the team in scoring (23.0 ppg) and won the NBA's Sixth Man Award. Robertson broke the club record for steals with 207. On November 9, 1989, the Bucks battled Seattle in a five-overtime game that was the second longest on record-it took four hours, 17 minutes, and 309 total points for the Bucks' 155-154 victory.
The postseason lasted only one round for the Bucks, who lost to Chicago, three games to one. The loss marked only the third time since the 1978 Playoffs that Milwaukee had failed to reach the conference semifinals.
With the Bucks' fortunes tumbling, most observers figured the team would finish no better than sixth place for the 1990-91 season. Milwaukee surpassed those predictions, posting a 48-34 record and finishing in third place in the Central Division. But the Bucks were whisked away in the playoffs, suffering a three-game first-round sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Milwaukee's trademarks in 1990-91 were good ballhandling, tough defense, and strong performances at home-the team began the season with 18 straight victories at the Bradley Center. The Bucks topped the NBA in steals for the second consecutive year, with 894, and forced opponents into 18.7 turnovers per game, second in the league behind Golden State. Robertson accounted for a league-leading 246 steals and scored 13.6 points per game en route to an All-Star selection. He was joined on the All-Star roster by Pierce, who continued his high-scoring ways, averaging 22.5 points. In February, shortly after the All-Star Game, Pierce was traded to Seattle in exchange for Dale Ellis, a three-point threat who averaged 19.3 points in 21 games with the Bucks.
The Bucks advanced to the playoffs but squandered their home-court advantage, losing three straight first-round games to Philadelphia.
1988-89: Winning Ways Continue In New Arena
In 1988-89 the team began play in a new arena, the Bradley Center, where the Bucks continued their winning ways. The club posted a 49-33 record but found themselves in fourth place behind Detroit, Cleveland, and Atlanta in the NBA's toughest division.
With Sikma and Pierce leading the way, Milwaukee broke the league's single-season team free throw percentage record, besting the 1974-75 Kansas City-Omaha clip of .8205 with an .8207 mark. The Bucks also reached the franchise's 1,000-win mark in 1,654 games, becoming the second-fastest club to attain that plateau, behind Boston, which had accomplished the feat in 1,593 games.
Milwaukee went 11-10 over the first 21 games of the 1988-89 campaign before going on a 33-13 tear. The team then dropped 10 of its final 15 games. The Bucks set attendance records in the new arena, averaging 17,097 fans per game and registering 20 sellouts in 41 home dates.
The Bucks were led by Cummings, who made the All-Star Team and scored 22.9 points per game. Larry Krystkowiak, a 6-9 forward from the University of Montana, played well in his second season in Milwaukee, averaging 12.7 points. Moncrief started 50 games in his final season with the Bucks.
In the playoffs the squad battled injuries and scored an upset. With Atlanta holding the home-court advantage, the Bucks toppled the favored Hawks, three games to two, in a first-round series. But major injuries to Cummings, Krystkowiak, and Pressey effectively ended the club's already slim chances against Detroit. The Pistons, who pounded all opponents in their championship run, pasted Milwaukee in four games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Pierce scored more than 20 points in each of the last eight playoff games, and Fred Roberts scored 33 points in the final game against Detroit while subbing for Cummings. Pressey did not play in the postseason, and Krystkowiak's knee injury in Game 3 of the Detroit series derailed his career for two years.
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1987-88: End Of An Era: Nelson Steps Down
Nelson left the Bucks after the 1986-87 season to become the Golden State Warriors' executive vice president. The move brought to a close the most successful coaching career in franchise history. In his 11 seasons with Milwaukee, Nelson guided the Bucks to a 540-344 record, seven straight 50-win seasons, and seven straight division titles.
Del Harris, who became the Bucks' new head coach for 1987-88, helped Milwaukee record its 9th straight winning season, the 15th in the franchise's 20-year history. A hallmark of Milwaukee teams in those years was consistency, and the team's streak of 52 months of winning records wasn't snapped until January 1988. The Bucks, also known for defense, were again strong in that category, yielding 105.5 points per game and limiting opponents to .473 field goal shooting.
Sikma, who became the tallest man in NBA history to win the NBA free throw title by shooting .922 percent from the line, helped the Bucks to a team-record .775 free throw percentage. Journeyman center Randy Breuer had a career season in 11 categories, including an average of 12.0 points per game. But the Bucks lacked many elements, notably another big scoring threat besides Cummings (21.3 ppg). Sikma scored 16.5 points per game and Pierce contributed 16.4. Moncrief was again hampered by injuries.
Milwaukee finished the season tied with Cleveland for fourth place in the Central Division, then lost to Atlanta in a five-game first-round playoff series. The Bucks honored Junior Bridgeman at midseason by retiring his uniform No. 2; he had played 10 seasons with the Bucks (1975-76 through 1983-84, and 1986-87), averaging double figures in scoring in all but his first and last years.
1984-87: Roster Shake-Up Leads To Yet Another Division Crown
The Bucks had won four straight Central Division titles in a declining fashion, with their win total slipping from 60 in 1980-81 to 50 in 1983-84. Rather than continue the slide, the Bucks shook up their roster. Prior to the 1984-85 season they traded Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, Harvey Catchings, and cash to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Terry Cummings, a 22.9 points per game scorer, Craig Hodges, and Ricky Pierce.
The trade paved the way for a fifth straight Central Division crown and a robust 59-23 record. The Bucks had the league's stingiest defense, giving up 104.0 points per game. The defense was paced by Moncrief and Paul Pressey, a 6-5 player from the University of Tulsa for whom Nelson invented the position of "point forward." Pressey ran the offense but also rebounded well and defended against virtually any player on the court.
Former DePaul University forward Cummings logged 23.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and made his first All-Star Game appearance. Pierce contributed 9.8 points per game coming off the bench. As the regular season came to a close, Milwaukee native Herb Kohl, who later became a U.S. senator, purchased the Bucks from Jim Fitzgerald.
In the postseason Milwaukee dropped Chicago and high-flying rookie Michael Jordan, three games to one, in the first round, but lost to Philadelphia and another airborne performer, Julius Erving, in four straight games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Moncrief and Cummings were named to the All-NBA Second Team; Moncrief and Pressey were named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team; and Nelson was again voted NBA Coach of the Year.
In 1985-86 Milwaukee completed its seven-year division title run with a 57-25 campaign. But the Bucks again fell short of the NBA Finals, earning the distinction of being the best team in the 1980s that never reached the final round.
The team's style was much the same as it had been the year before: tough on defense and careful with the basketball. The Bucks lowered their team mark for turnovers for the third straight season, with only 1,369. Craig Hodges set new team records for three-point field goals made (73) and attempted (162) and led the league in long-distance shooting, edging out New York's Trent Tucker, .4506 to .4505. Pressey was the only other Milwaukee player to rank among the league leaders, placing eighth in steals with 2.10 per game.
But the Bucks met Boston again in the playoffs, and again the Celtics were too much. After Milwaukee swept New Jersey in the first round and slipped past Philadelphia, four games to three, in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in four years. Boston won the series in four straight games.
The 1986-87 campaign began a slide for the Bucks that saw them fall from the top of the Central Division to several seasons of mediocrity and then to also-ran status. The 1986-87 version was still a winning one, however. The Bucks finished 50-32, their seventh straight season in the 50-win category, and placed third in the division.
Milwaukee's major deal for the year brought 6-11 center Jack Sikma, acquired with two second-round draft choices from Seattle in exchange for Alton Lister and two first-round picks. Sikma, a 10-year veteran and a seven-time All-Star, averaged 12.7 points in his first year with Milwaukee.
The Bucks' decline was furthered by injuries to Moncrief. A tireless battler in seven previous seasons, in 1986-87 he played in only 39 games because of medical problems and averaged only 11.8 points. Cummings had another fine season with 20.8 points per contest. John Lucas joined the team in mid-January to plug a hole when injuries mounted, adding leadership and stability.
The Bucks drew longtime playoff nemesis Philadelphia in the first round. It took the full five games and the home-court advantage for the Bucks to advance. With one playoff rival down, Milwaukee met another, Boston. As usual, the Celtics prevailed in a seven-game conference semifinal tilt. Moncrief was regal, scoring 33 and 34 points in back-to-back games against Boston, which went on to lose to the Lakers in the 1987 NBA Finals.
1981-84: Bucks Continue To Sing The Postseason Blues
In 1981-82 Milwaukee captured its third straight division title with a 55-27 record, running away in the Central Division with a 13-game lead on second-place Atlanta. But the triumphs were not without obstacles. Marques Johnson began the year with an 18-game holdout, and Coach Don Nelson was forced to use 15 different starting lineups because of injuries to several players.
Nelson proved to be a master of coaching improvisation. One of his best moves was to put Moncrief among the starting five. The third-year guard from the University of Arkansas scored 19.8 points per game and pulled down 6.7 boards per contest, more than teammate Lanier, who averaged 13.5 points and 5.2 rebounds. Moncrief, among the best defenders in the league, was the first player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, and assists since the Celtics' John Havlicek in 1969-70.
The team's scoring average was boosted in a 171-166 triple-overtime offensive extravaganza with the San Antonio Spurs on March 6, 1982, as the two teams combined to set a single-game NBA scoring record (later broken by Denver and Detroit in 1983). George Gervin scored 50 points to lead the Spurs to victory in the marathon contest.
The Bucks had more disappointment in store. They met the 76ers again in the Eastern Conference Semifinals; Philadelphia opened the series with two victories at the Spectrum, and Milwaukee never recovered, falling in six games. The Sixers eventually lost to the Lakers in the 1982 NBA Finals.
Nelson juggled his team through another run of injuries in 1982-83 and was rewarded with another Central Division title and his first NBA Coach of the Year Award. Moncrief was the main man. As NBA Defensive Player of the Year (chosen the first year the award was given), Moncrief led the team with 22.5 points per game. Johnson (21.4 ppg) again put up numbers good enough to earn him a fourth All-Star Game appearance.
The Bucks also received help from other sources. Dave Cowens, acquired from Boston for Quinn Buckner, and Alton Lister, a second-year center from Arizona State, joined with the ailing Lanier to give the team plenty of power inside.
After finishing the regular season at 51-31, Milwaukee blasted the Celtics in four straight games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Bucks then ran into a buzz saw-the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers of Julius Erving and Moses Malone, a team that lost only one game in their romp to the NBA title. Milwaukee could take some consolation from the fact that the Bucks had dealt the Sixers that loss, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Players continued to come and go for the 1983-84 Bucks, who nonetheless set a steady course for their fifth straight division crown with a 50-32 record. Cowens was released, Winters retired, and 7-3 rookie Randy Breuer joined the team, as did 6-1 veteran Nate Archibald and sharpshooter Kevin Grevey.
Moncrief was still the anchor, winning his second straight NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and helping the team lead the league in fewest points allowed (101.5 ppg). Johnson continued to pour in jumpers, averaging 20.7 points. Under the new expanded playoff format, Milwaukee faced Atlanta in the first round and needed all five games to shake the Hawks.
In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bucks bounced the New Jersey Nets, four games to two, for a chance to meet the Celtics for the Eastern Conference championship. Paul Mokeski, who had logged only 12.3 minutes per game for the year, was an unlikely contributor, averaging 6.1 points in the playoffs. But Boston, starting a run of conference championships with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish aboard, disposed of the Bucks in five games. For the second straight year Milwaukee lost in the conference finals to the eventual NBA champion.
1979-81: NBA's Biggest Feet Help Bucks Walk Over Opponents
Lacking a force in the middle since Abdul-Jabbar's departure in 1975, Milwaukee obtained a center during the 1979-80 season who brought the Bucks back to prominence. Future Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, a big banger with a soft touch and huge feet, was acquired from Detroit during the All-Star break in exchange for Kent Benson and a first-round draft choice.
After Lanier's arrival the Bucks went 20-6 on their way to a 49-33 record and the Midwest Division title. A balanced team with Lanier, Winters, Johnson, Buckner, Bridgeman, and rookie Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee had only one player among the league's statistical leaders-Johnson finished 10th in field goal percentage with a .544 clip.
The Bucks drew defending NBA-champion Seattle in the Western Conference Semifinals in what turned out to be a thrilling seven-game series. The first two games were overtime contests, with each team earning a win. Game 5 set an NBA record with a crowd of 40,172, and Game 7 saw the SuperSonics prevail.
The Bucks had all the necessary ingredients for victory in 1980-81 but won no prize. With a solid, consistent, and deep squad, they stormed to a 60-22 record to top the newly aligned Central Division. This alignment placed Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference, in a division with Chicago, Indiana, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Detroit. The Bucks would win the division six straight times yet would never advance to the NBA Finals.
Scoring 113.1 points per game, the Bucks won often: 10 in a row early in the season, 11 straight road games, and 16 in a row at home. Johnson averaged 20.3 points, Bridgeman 16.8, Lanier 14.3, Moncrief 14.0, and Winters 11.6. Buckner broke the team's season mark for steals with 197.
The playoffs brought another seven-game heartbreak. Yielding the
home-court advantage to Julius Erving's rising Philadelphia 76ers
in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Bucks took the series to
the limit before losing by a single point in
1976-79: Back On Track: The Nelson Regime Begins
The 1976-77 season brought more change. In October 1976 Jim Fitzgerald, a cable television executive, obtained a controlling interest in the club. Wayne Embry, formerly general manager, relinquished his day-to-day responsibilities. McGlocklin, the last of the original Bucks, retired. Don Nelson, a member of five Celtics championship teams, replaced the dismissed Larry Costello as coach 18 games into the season. (The Bucks were 3-15 at the time.) Nelson, who had no previous coaching experience, would guide the Bucks to the playoffs in 9 of his 11 years with Milwaukee-but not this one.
In 1976-77 the Bucks, two seasons removed from the NBA Finals, finished in last place in the Midwest Division with a 30-52 record. They were a team of exciting yet inexperienced players. The 1976 NBA Draft brought rookies Quinn Buckner, Alex English, Scott Lloyd, and Lloyd Walton, while Swen Nater joined the squad as a free agent. The highlight of the year may have come on February 13, when Milwaukee hosted the NBA All-Star Game.
For 1977-78, the Bucks had another fine draft, selecting Kent Benson, Marques Johnson, and Ernie Grunfeld. The three newcomers joined Bridgeman, Buckner, English, Meyers, and Winters to form a good team that had no playoff experience. Milwaukee finished 44-38 and second in the Midwest Division.
The team backed into the playoffs after the Seattle SuperSonics beat Golden State in the final contest of the regular season. The Bucks swept the favored Suns in two games in a first-round series, then succumbed to the Denver Nuggets in seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals. Winters was an All-Star, while Buckner was selected to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team and Johnson was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team.
For the 1978-79 season Milwaukee lost two key players. English went to the Indiana Pacers as a free agent, and Meyers missed all 82 games with a back injury. Consequently, the team finished 38-44 and out of the playoffs.
Johnson provided many of the season's highlights. A 6-7 forward in his second season out of UCLA, he scored 25.6 points per game, third in the NBA behind George Gervin (29.6 ppg) and Lloyd Free (28.8), and received more All-Star votes than any other player in the Western Conference. Bridgeman scored 15.5 points per game off the bench, and the Bucks shattered the NBA single-season assists record with 2,562 (later broken by the 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers with 2,575). On March 14 Milwaukee set a team scoring record for a regulation-length game with 158 points against New Orleans.
1974-76: A Time of Transition
The 1974-75 season marked the first of three years of significant transition for the Bucks. During this campaign Robertson retired and Allen was traded to Los Angeles for guard Jim Price. But Milwaukee still had Abdul-Jabbar.
How important was Abdul-Jabbar to the Bucks? The opening of the season made it obvious. They began with him on the sidelines, nursing a broken hand. Without the big guy in the middle, the Bucks went 3-13. After Abdul-Jabbar returned, the team went 35-31 but couldn't avoid the Midwest Division cellar. The Bucks' final mark of 38-44 was an accomplishment, however, for a team dogged by bad luck throughout the year.
Price, who along with Abdul-Jabbar and Dandridge made up the club's first All-Star trio, was out of action for the second half of the season with a knee injury. Milwaukee lost 18 games by 5 points or less, 11 of those by 3 points or less. The team entered the final week of the season chasing a wild-card playoff spot but failed, missing the postseason for the first time in five years. Abdul-Jabbar was the league's third-highest scorer at 30.0 points per game, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Transition continued at an accelerated pace for the Bucks during 1975-76. The real head-turner was the monumental trade that sent Abdul-Jabbar (who had decided he was no longer happy in Milwaukee) and reserve center Walt Wesley to Los Angeles in exchange for center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, and two former All-Americans, rookies David Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. Abdul-Jabbar went on to win five NBA Championships with the Lakers before his retirement; the Bucks did not win another crown while he was still in the league.
In six seasons with the Bucks, Abdul-Jabbar had been named league MVP three times, NBA Rookie of the Year in 1970, an All-Star six times, an All-NBA First Team pick four times, an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection twice, and NBA Finals MVP in 1971. Almost 20 years later he still ranked as Milwaukee's all-time career scorer, top rebounder, points per game leader, field goal percentage leader, and holder of a list of other records as long as his potent right arm. The franchise retired his uniform No. 33 in 1993. The Bucks were 342-150 with Abdul-Jabbar on the team, a .695 winning percentage.
The Bucks' record for the 1975-76 season without Abdul-Jabbar was 38-44, the same as their record had been with him the year before. Their place in the standings was entirely different, however. Milwaukee went from last place to first in its two seasons with identical records, winning the Midwest Division in 1975-76. (The Lakers and Abdul-Jabbar finished fourth in the Pacific Division with 40 victories.)
The Bucks didn't last long in the playoffs, however, losing to Detroit in a best-of-three first-round series. Dandridge finished the regular season with 21.5 points per game, ninth best in the NBA. Winters was an All-Star.
1972-74: Robertson Slows Down, But The Bucks Don't Stop Here
In 1972-73 the Bucks topped 60 wins for the third year in a row, an NBA first, but the season was a difficult one. Coach Larry Costello had his full roster available for barely half of the 82-game schedule. Abdul-Jabbar (30.2 ppg) was unseated as scoring champion by a player a foot shorter than him, Kansas City-Omaha's Nate "Tiny" Archibald (34.0 ppg), and he was dethroned as MVP by a player a step slower, Boston's Dave Cowens. The season was Robertson's second to last and his lowest-scoring campaign to date at 15.5 points per game.
Dandridge, however, emerged as a first-rate player. He scored 20.2 points per game and played in the 1973 NBA All-Star Game. Allen continued to improve in his third season with the Bucks, scoring 15.5 points per game. But the Warriors and Rick Barry surprised the Bucks by pushing them out of the playoffs earlier than anticipated, as Milwaukee fell to Golden State in the Western Conference Semifinals, four games to two.
The Bucks responded with a tremendous season in 1973-74. Although falling short of the 60-win mark, they won the Midwest Division for the fourth time in their six-year history, posting an NBA-best 59-23 record. Abdul-Jabbar was irrepressible, finishing third in the league in scoring (27.0 ppg) behind Bob McAdoo and Pete Maravich, second in field goal percentage (.539), fourth in rebounding (14.5 rpg), and second in blocked shots (3.49 per game). He was voted the NBA Most Valuable Player for the third time in his first five seasons.
Robertson, at age 35, averaged 12.7 points and 6.4 assists, career lows but still impressive for the elder statesman. Dandridge hit 18.9 points per game on .503 shooting from the field, the 10th-best mark in the league. Allen tore cartilage in his knee in a March 15 game at Detroit and was out for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
Even without Allen the Bucks were in fine form in the postseason. They eliminated Los Angeles, four games to one, in the opening round and dispatched Chicago, four games to none, in the Western Conference Finals. The NBA Finals pitted Milwaukee against Boston, which boasted Cowens, John Havlicek, and young guards Jo Jo White, Don Chaney, and Paul Westphal.
The result was a fantastic NBA Finals. It went seven games, with Boston winning the opener at Milwaukee but losing the second in overtime. The teams split the next two games in Boston. But the Celtics won Game 5 on the road and had a chance to wrap it up at Boston Garden in Game 6. Instead, the Bucks claimed a double-overtime victory on a memorable Abdul-Jabbar hook shot from deep in the corner in the final three seconds. In Game 7, 6-9 center Cowens scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 102-87 Celtics win.
1970-72: Kareem And "The Big O" Lead Bucks To NBA Crown
Milwaukee took the 1970-71 NBA championship with a dominating playoff run. The seeds for this success had been planted when the Bucks swung an offseason deal that sent Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk to the Cincinnati Royals in return for guard Oscar "The Big O" Robertson.
Robertson was entering his 11th season. Although not as sharp as in his younger years, he brought a wealth of skills and experience to the young Bucks and still averaged 19.4 points, earning spots on the All-Star Team and the All-NBA Second Team. Alcindor, meanwhile, threw down 31.7 points per game and was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player.
In addition to Alcindor and Robertson, the Bucks started Jon McGlocklin, Bob Dandridge, and Greg Smith, with Bob Boozer, Lucius Allen, and Dick Cunningham in reserve. Milwaukee stormed to a 66-16 record in the newly aligned Midwest Division. The Bucks lost only two times in 12 playoff games, notching four-games-to-one series victories against the San Francisco Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers before sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the 1971 NBA Finals.
Defending the title the next season proved difficult. For the player now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, however, everything seemed easy in 1971-72. He was the league's leading scorer with 34.8 points per contest, including 55 against the Boston Celtics on December 10. The NBA Most Valuable Player for the second straight year, Abdul-Jabbar was rarely stopped when he received the ball near the basket.
The Bucks had four other players with scoring averages in double figures: Dandridge (18.4 ppg), Robertson (17.4), Allen (13.5), and McGlocklin (10.7). Milwaukee took the Midwest Division with a 63-19 record and disposed of Golden State, four games to one, in the first round of the playoffs. The Western Conference Finals pitted the Bucks of Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson against the Lakers of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.
Chamberlain was nearing the end of his career (he would retire after the next season) and scored only 14.8 points per game in 1971-72, far below the 50.4 average he had registered a decade earlier. But he topped the league in rebounds and field goal percentage and was an outstanding defender, making the matchup of Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar significant in the annals of NBA big men. The Lakers finished with the best record in the Western Conference and swept Chicago in the first round. Los Angeles then defeated the Bucks in six games before trouncing New York, four games to one, for the NBA championship.
1968-70: It's Better To Be Lucky Than Good Milwaukee opened its initial season on October 16, 1968, with an 89-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls before 8,467 fans in the Milwaukee Arena. The starting lineup featured Wayne Embry at center, Fred Hetzel and Len Chappell at forward, and Jon McGlocklin and Guy Rodgers in the backcourt. Larry Costello was the head coach. The team's first win came in its sixth game of the season, a 134-118 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The 1968-69 Bucks completed the season at 27-55 and last in the Eastern Division, a fortuitous finish as it turned out. Under league rules at the time, a coin toss was held between the two divisions' last-place finishers for the first pick in the college draft. The expansion Phoenix Suns, last in the Western Division with a 16-66 record, were matched with Milwaukee in a telephone-conference coin toss conducted by then NBA Commissioner J. Walter Kennedy. Suns owner Dick Bloch guessed heads, and the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar came down tails.
The selection was obvious: Lew Alcindor, who had led the UCLA Bruins to three NCAA Championships in three years. Alcindor would go on to play 20 seasons in the NBA and become the greatest scorer in league history with 38,387 career points. The Suns took 6-10 University of Florida center Neal Walk, who would average 12.6 points in eight seasons with Phoenix, New Orleans, and New York.
Alcindor immediately made the Bucks winners. A 7-2 center with an artful, unique, and downright deadly sky-hook, he was an easy choice for the 1969-70 NBA Rookie of the Year Award after averaging 28.8 points and 14.5 rebounds. He also played in the 1970 NBA All-Star Game and was selected to the All-NBA Second Team and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team at season's end. He finished second in the league in scoring to the Los Angeles Lakers' Jerry West (31.2 ppg) and third in rebounding behind the San Diego Rockets' Elvin Hayes (16.9 rpg) and the Baltimore Bullets' Wes Unseld (16.7).
As great as Alcindor was in his first season, the Bucks were not simply a one-man attack. All-Star Flynn Robinson knocked down 21.8 points per contest, 6-6 forward Bob Dandridge made the NBA All-Rookie Team, and Jon McGlocklin threw in 17.6 points per game. The Bucks finished at 56-26 in only their second season, placing second behind the New York Knickerbockers in the Eastern Division. Milwaukee then beat the Philadelphia 76ers, four games to one, in the Eastern Division Semifinals before bowing to New York in the Eastern Division Finals.
Bucks Enjoy Instant Success Thanks To Coin Flip
The Milwaukee Bucks first entered the NBA in the 1968-69 season. Thanks to a coin toss that landed them the game's most graceful center, the Bucks won a league championship faster than any team in the history of major professional sports. With Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) at center and Oscar Robertson at guard, the Bucks took the NBA crown in only their third season. Their early success established them as a strong team throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. Consistently a playoff qualifier during those years, the Bucks exhibited a tough, hard-nosed style. Milwaukee had some disappointing years in the '90s, but with bright, young stars Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen now on board, the team climbed back into the playoffs in 1999.
The city of Milwaukee's first NBA team, the Hawks, fled to St. Louis for the 1955-56 season after four years of meager support. The second franchise was more fortunate. Entering the league along with the Phoenix Suns after paying an entry fee of $2 million, the club was tagged the Bucks because the name suggested "spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile," according to the name-the-team contest winner.
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