Past, Present and Future
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NOT MILWAUKEE, April 13, 2007 -- As I was channel surfing the other night, I happened upon one of my new favorite channels: The Tube Music Network. It's what MTV was like when it first started out: wall-to-wall videos. Except this time, we don't need no stinkin' VJs. (Unfortunately, it also has very little soul and R&B videos, which was also one of the criticisms of MTV when it first came out.)

Anyway, as Guns 'N Roses' Axl Rose wailed and snaked his way through "Sweet Child o' Mine," a thought hit me: "Holy [censored], Appetite for Destruction is 20 years old. Am I that old?"

I am. In 1987, I finished my junior year of, ahem, highschool, Prince had come out with Sign O' the Times (I guess the letter "F" didn't rate that year), U2 released The Joshua Tree, Def Leppard (don't laugh, they were HUGE) released Hysteria and Eric B and Rakim dropped Paid in Full.

As for hoops, the Bucks and Celtics met in a playoffs series for the fourth time in five seasons.

Little did we know, 1987 would represent a peak year for most of these people. Guns N' Roses, Prince and Def Leppard would never release better albums. (While some would argue about U2, I'm partial to Achtung, Baby.)

That year was also the last time those two storied NBA franchises would meet in the postseason. The Celtics defeated the Bucks in a grueling seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals series in which, if I remember correctly, the Bucks led by seven deep in the fourth quarter of Game 7. The reason I don't remember the precise number is that I've tried to block that memory. It was a crushing defeat. It was Don Nelson's last game as Bucks head coach. It was the last time before the Bucks' glorious 2000-01 season they would reach the Conference Finals.

The Celtics would go on to defeat the Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals ( "And there's a steal by Bird ...") and then lose to the Lakers in six in The Finals. The Celtics have not been to The Finals since.

All in all, the Bucks and Celtics have met five times in the postseason, with the Celtics coming out on top in four of them. One was for the Celtics title No. 12 in 1974, which denied the Bucks championship No. 2. They have each swept the other, the Bucks kicking the C's to the curb in 1983 (easily Larry Bird's least favorite playoffs memory) and the Cs returning the favor in the Eastern Conference championship in 1986. Then, the 1987 classic seven-game series.

For kicks, let's take a quick look at the Bucks-Celtics in the postseason, because we all know they won't be meeting for the sixth time this season.

1974: NBA FINALS

The Bucks and Celtics meet in the postseason for the first time and it's for the whole bowl of New England clam chowder. It featured Hall of Famers on both sides (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson for the Bucks, John Havlicek, Dave Cowens for the Celtics), no less than four future NBA head coaches on the Celtics alone (Nelson, Cowens, Paul Westphal and Paul Silas and Hubie Brown as the Bucks' lead (i.e. only) assistant coach.

That's quite an NBA family picture right there.

This Finals marks the only time in NBA history no team strung together back-to-back wins. Boston won Game 1, the Bucks took Game 2 and so it went until Game 6, where the Celtics led 101-100 in double OT at Boston Garden. The Celtics looked primed to take No. 12 in front of the frenzied faithful, until Kareem did this.

Bwahahahaha! Wooooooo! A 17-foot sky hook. Would anyone even try that shot today? Down go the Celtics and the series heads back to Milwaukee for Game 7.

Turns out the Celtics got the last laugh as they dusted the Bucks by 15. Title No. 12. My dad still won't talk about it. And frankly, I'm done too.

1983: EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

Sweet, sweet revenge. The Bucks absolutely dominate and sweep the Celtics. I remember watching Game 2 at Michael's, a long-gone Milwaukee pizzeria and bar for which my dad played softball on Friday nights. I remember my dad's longtime friend Mike Kloss glancing at the TV and asking, "Are you guys seeing this?"

The Bucks were closing out a 95-91 win and the bar erupted as the local pro five took a 2-0 lead. They would end the series three days later with a 107-93 pasting (and the last two games of the series were played on May 1 and May 2, something you may never, ever see again, though the Bucks and Celtics played back-to-back games in 1986).

Of course, it was too good to be true, as the Fo', Fi', Fo' Sixers dumped the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Fi' being the Bucks' one win.

1984: EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

On the line, the Bucks' first trip to The Finals since losing to the Celtics in 1974.

Out of commission, the Bucks after the Celtics made amends for the previous year's sweep with a 4-1 series win. I don't remember much from that series, which is probably for the best.

Anyway. Time to move along, nothing to see here.

1986: EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Another Bucks' run deep into the postseason is stopped by one of the greatest teams in NBA history as the Celtics drub the Bucks in four. Such is their luck. All I remember is the Bucks had as much of a chance against those Celtics as Quentin Tarantino has making a Disney movie.

The Celtics destruction was complete and cold. I don't remember when, but I do remember Bird either ending a half or Game 3 or 4 by hitting a three-pointer in the left corner and then walking off the court as soon as it left his hand. It was good, and so were those Celtics.

1987: EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

An epic series by anyone's standards: seven games and save for a 13-point Celtics win in Game 1, no game was decided by more than six points, including an OT and double-OT game.

The Bucks had acquired Jack Sikma in the offseason to help offset the Celtics' Hall of Fame front line of Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, which was growing old but still humming. Bird's back problem hadn't set in yet, Parish still could play, but McHale broke his foot in March and ... was STILL PLAYING ON IT. Good lord.

Anyway, the Celtics took a 3-1 lead with the series headed back to Boston. Series over, Detroit, here we come, right?

Wrong. The Bucks won Game 5 in Boston 129-124 and then took Game 6 by 10 in Milwaukee. It was back to Boston for Game 7, where the Bucks were looking to become only the fifth team at the time to comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

Alas, as it was with my Bucks in the '80s, they couldn't seal the deal. Up seven (or nine) with less than two minutes to play (as I said, I think I've either blacked out the memory or blacked out after the Bucks blew the lead), the Bucks ended up losing 119-113.

And that was the last time these two teams met in the Playoffs.

Fast forward to this year, the Bucks and Celtics find themselves playing each other tonight as the Celtics celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise's first of a record 16 NBA titles.

Tonight, they're playing for something far, far, from postseason glory.

They're playing for the future.

And you know what, there's nothing wrong with that. Why? Because with the playoffs out of reach, it's the only thing right now the Bucks and Celtics can play for, and it's the smart play.

Trust me, I would be saying the same if this young man hadn't declared for the 2007 NBA Draft and I were the projected No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick.

My biggest question for those who question personnel moves at this time is: Why would you want to subject your franchise players, who have either missed significant time because of injury or have had a variety of nagging injuries over the course of the season, to further -- and possibly a more serious -- injury? What if Paul Pierce or Michael Redd went down with something career threatening in the last two weeks of the season?

You know what we'd hear? We'd hear about how dumb it was for their coaches to have these guys on the floor.

Which goes to show, you can't win for losing.

That, and we're all a long way from 1987.

Thoughts? Complaints? E-mail us. Also, you can listen to Rob Peterson on NBA Radio, Sirius 127 every Monday at 7:30 a.m. ET, and every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.