Revisiting playoff history between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 06 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 06 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

For the eighth time in franchise history and the first time since 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks will face off against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs. Before Game 1 of this highly-anticipated series tips off today, here is a look back at the playoff history between the two franchises.

Reviewing NBA Playoff history between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics

In the seven playoff clashes between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics in history thus far, the latter has won the series five times.

It started with a matchup in the 1974 NBA Finals when the Bucks were led by none other than the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The former Finals MVP put on a display of dominance as he averaged 32.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.1 blocked shots per contest, while John Havlicek had a brilliant series for the Celtics by averaging 26.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.9 steals. Ultimately, Boston took down Milwaukee in seven games and Havlicek won the Finals MVP.

Following that series, the Bucks and Celtics went several years without seeing one another again before they met four different times in the playoffs in the 1980s. It started with a matchup in the 1983 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Bucks, led by an All-Star duo of Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson, emphatically swept the Celtics 4-0. The following season, Boston got their revenge over Milwaukee in the 1984 Eastern Conference Finals with a 4-1 series victory thanks to a sensational effort from Larry Bird, who eventually won the championship and Finals MVP.

Two years later, the pair once again faced off in the 1986 Eastern Conference Finals, but Boston proved to be too much for Milwaukee with a 4-0 sweep. Larry Bird was once again stellar in that series as he led the Celtics to yet another championship and earned another Finals MVP that year. The following season, the Bucks were out for revenge in the 1987 Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they took the Celtics to seven games thanks to an impressive team effort. Terry Cummings and Sidney Moncrief both averaged over 20 points per game, while Jack Sikma, John Lucas, and Ricky Pierce were all above 15 points in the series. Yet, the Celtics still prevailed as they had four players averaging 20 or more points for the series, headed by Larry Bird at 29.9, as they won 4-3.

After a surplus of playoff battles throughout the 80s, these two franchises went 31 years before they would see each other again. The seventh-seeded Bucks matched up with the second-seeded Celtics in a first round clash that went back and forth for seven straight games. Led by 23-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo and a berserk Khris Middleton, the Bucks fell just short of taking down an impressive Celtics team as they lost Game 7 on the road. One year later, and the first year under coach Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks were set to battle the Celtics in the second round. After they lost Game 1 on their home floor, Milwaukee dominated throughout the rest of the series thanks to 28.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game from Antetokounmpo and won the next four straight games against Boston.

Now, after seven prior playoff meetings over the years, the Bucks and Celtics will meet on the big stage once more. There is rightfully no shortage of hype surrounding the matchup, and it will be a must-see clash filled with plenty of star power on full display.

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Be sure to catch Bucks-Celtics Game 1 today at 12:00 p.m. CST on ABC.