15. Big Paper Daddy takes down Nique in ’89
In many ways, the 1988-89 season was the last stand of the great Bucks teams that were consistent playoff forces throughout the previous decade.
The Bucks made the playoffs twice more in the two seasons that directly followed this one, but 1989 marked the franchise’s last series win until the brief burst of joy that arrived in 2001.
With that backdrop established, the Bucks went to battle in a thrilling series with a talented Atlanta Hawks squad led by a still in his prime Dominique Wilkins. Cumulatively, only three points separated the two teams across an evenly-matched series that went the full five games before Milwaukee managed to prevail.
Wilkins played every second of the game for Atlanta, spurring on his Hawks with 30 points, while Doc Rivers, Jon Koncak, Moses Malone and Antoine Carr also chipped in with 14 to 19 points respectively.
In response, none of Milwaukee’s starters could even reach the 20-point mark, although Terry Cummings and Jay Humphries came close. Luckily for the Bucks, Pierce delivered a signature showing off the bench that very much lived up to the reputation he earned with two Sixth Man of the Year awards during his Bucks tenure.
In 32 minutes, Pierce scored 35 points on 13-of-17 shooting from the field, while also dishing out five assists.
Pierce’s legacy as a Buck was secured over the course of eight seasons of consistent offensive excellence, but this game against one of the league’s very best players acted as an appropriate high point near the end of his stay in Milwaukee, and an obvious moment of transition for the franchise overall.