Milwaukee Bucks: 49 years in 49 days – 1972-73 season

Rick Barry (24) of the San Francisco Warriors is shown leaping through the air past Oscar Robertson (4) of the Milwaukee Bucks as he shoots for the basket.
Rick Barry (24) of the San Francisco Warriors is shown leaping through the air past Oscar Robertson (4) of the Milwaukee Bucks as he shoots for the basket. /

The Milwaukee Bucks continued their postseason struggles after the 1972-73 season, following yet another regular season filled with victory.

The season: 1972-73

The record: 60-22

The postseason: 2-4, lost in first round

The story:

If the Milwaukee Bucks were going to improve after the 1972 postseason, they’d have to do it internally. The Bucks kept almost all of their rotation intact going from 1971-72 into the 1972-73 NBA season, with Milwaukee’s same Big 3 flanked by Lucius Allen, Curtis Perry, and Jon McGlocklin.

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While Allen and two of the aforementioned Big 3, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, managed to find ways to improve their game, Oscar Robertson started to feel the effects of a long career on his bulky, 34-year-old body. Robertson missed nine games that year and wasn’t the same player when he was active, missing out on All-Star team honors for the first time ever.

Dandridge took his place thanks to a career year in both scoring and rebounding, as he put up 20.2 points, 8.2 boards, and 2.8 assists per game. Kareem’s scoring numbers actually dipped slightly in this season, but he reached his peak as a passer during his Bucks tenure in ’72-73, posting 5.0 assists to go with 30.2 points and 16.2 rebounds per game.

For all of Kareem’s strong play, his off-the-court life that year was incredibly tumultuous. Somehow, even with his life potentially at risk, Kareem still managed to post 30/16/5 each night and carry the Bucks to their third straight 60-win season.

Even with Kareem, Bobby D and Oscar around, Milwaukee slipped to being a middle-of-the-road team in terms of points per game, although the Bucks were fifth in points scored per possession. Milwaukee’s defense remained the team’s biggest strength, as the Bucks ranked second in defensive rating. Only the New York Knicks allowed less points per game than Milwaukee did that season.

Even without the addition of new talent, the Bucks were still a top team in 1972-73. Only the Boston Celtics finished with a better record, as the Eastern Conference juggernauts raked in 68 regular season wins.

Milwaukee tallied 60 wins, tying them with the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, the Bucks would not get a chance to settle their score from last postseason with Los Angeles, as a team they beat with ease a year before got revenge in the 1973 NBA Playoffs.

Only this time around, the Golden State Warriors were not the same meek team who took just one game from the Bucks last time the teams faced off in a series. The Warriors added Rick Barry for the season, and the Hall of Famer added yet another skilled weapon to Golden State’s roster.

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Although Milwaukee outscored the Warriors in the series, after taking a 2-1 lead the Bucks would falter. Barry’s 38-point outburst in Game 4 evened the series, and the Warriors never looked back from there.

Kareem scored less than usual, averaging 22.8 points, 16.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, but it was Dandridge who lost the most going from the regular season to the playoffs. Bobby D put up just 13.8 points per game in the Finals.

Without his extra scoring, the Bucks struggled. Dandridge dropped 20 or more points just twice in the series, and those were the only two games Milwaukee managed to win. After bringing the title home two years ago, the Bucks were out of the postseason without even reaching the second round in 1973.

Next: 49 years in 49 days: 1971-72 season

Those defensive-minded Knicks would go on to win the title that season, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks were down after an early exit, but the team’s winning ways weren’t quite done.