The Milwaukee Bucks are getting set to reheat their playoff rivalry with the Brooklyn Nets in this year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Of course, given the players standing on both sides and the collective talent that will headline this blockbuster matchup, this has the opportunity to be one of, if not the biggest playoff series this year. That is if it lives up the hype, just as their meetings against one another during the regular season did.
However, this is far from the first playoff meeting between the two franchises as they previously met up against each other during their respective high points throughout the 1980s and the early 2000s.
So without further ado, let’s explore the Milwaukee Bucks’ previous playoff meetings with the Brooklyn Nets before their upcoming clash in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Milwaukee Bucks win 1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals series over the Nets
The first postseason meeting between the Bucks and the Nets occurred midway through the 1984 NBA Playoffs.
Milwaukee was fresh off of a 50-win campaign and having gotten past the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of that year’s playoffs in what proved to be a hard-fought series that went the full tilt. New Jersey, meanwhile, had just completed one of the biggest playoff upsets after having toppled that year’s defending NBA champions, the Philadelphia 76ers, in a five-game series as a sixth seed.
The Nets continued writing their underdog story by striking first with a 106-100 victory in Game 1 that surely put the Bucks on their back heels, especially with it coming on their home floor. Milwaukee quickly recalibrated and pulled out a 98-94 Game 2 victory to even up the series as it shifted over to New Jersey.
The Bucks followed that up with a 100-93 victory in Game 3 that put them up 2-1 in the series. That was short-lived as the Nets battled back to take 106-99 win in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2 as it went back to Milwaukee for a pivotal Game 5.
It turns out the Bucks had everything working in their favor as they shut down the Nets into their worst offensive performance of the series and took a 94-82 win to go up 3-2 as the series went back to New Jersey. Finally, the Bucks put the finishing touches on their series with the Nets by eking out a 98-97 win in New Jersey that propelled them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season.
The series was also notable for how the Bucks utilized their stars, specifically Marques Johnson. As Johnson recounted with Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype, Johnson coined the term ‘Point Forward’ as he took on greater ball handling responsibilities during the series due to the injuries to the Bucks’ backcourt:
“I did. It was 1984. We were playing the New Jersey Nets in the playoffs. They had a couple of guards who were pressuring our guards. Don Nelson in practice had the idea to have me take the ball up the floor and initiate offense as a relief to the pressure. I wasn’t trying to be Magic Johnson and dish out 10 or 11 assists. I was just supposed to get us into our offense easier. When Nellie told me what we were doing, my comment to him and assistant coach Del Harris was that I was “going to be a point forward not a point guard.” And Nellie really liked that. That is when that term was first uttered, right there at that practice.”
From there, the Bucks met up against a Celtics team that was a year removed from being swept by the Bucks in the 1983 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Celtics responded by tearing apart the Bucks in five games on their way to winning that year’s title.
That series defeat would be the last appearances of Bucks greats such as Johnson, Junior Bridgeman and Harvey Catchings as they later departed in a big blockbuster to the L.A. Clippers that ensuing offseason.