It took a win over the Atlanta Hawks in the regular season’s final game to determine it, but the Chicago Bulls will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs that begin Saturday in Chicago. When the Bucks and Bulls tip-off it will be the first playoff series between the Central Division rivals in twenty-five years.
The first playoff meeting between the two teams was all the way back in 1974. A bruised and battered Bulls had just defeated the Detroit Pistons for their first ever playoff series win which earned them a Western Conference Finals matchup with the Bucks, the number one overall seed in 1974. The Bucks were not kind to the Bulls. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged over 34 points per contest and the Bucks beat the Bulls by an average of 14 points in the 4-0 sweep.
In 1985 the Bulls faced the Bucks as the 7th seed in their first playoff appearance since 1981. In his first career playoff game Michael Jordan scored 23 points but had no baskets in the second half of the 109-100 loss. The Bulls managed to win a game in this series, taking Game 3 109-107 behind Jordan’s 35 points. However, the Bucks, led by Sydney Moncrief and Terry Cummings, were too much for the Bulls and they took the 4th game and the series 3-1. Overall, Jordan, in his first playoff series, averaged 29 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, and almost 3 steals.
1985 East First Round Game 2: Jordan 30 points and 12 Assists
1985 East First Round Game 3: Jordan’s first career playoff win
Technically the Bulls always have home court advantage against Milwaukee, but 1990 was the first year that the Bulls played the Bucks as a higher seed. It was the Bulls turn to dominate a series between the two and quickly disposed of the Bucks in four games on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. The only loss of the series came in Game 3 despite a 48 point performance by Michael Jordan. Overall Jordan averaged 36 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists for the series.
1990 East First Round Game 3: Jordan 48 points
These two teams have not met often in the playoffs and the last meeting happened so long ago I got distracted by an article about the Soviet Union while scrolling through the Chicago Tribune archives for this piece. Overall the Bulls are 4-8 against the Bucks in playoff games but despite the overall losing record, it is not 1974 and Milwaukee does not have Kareem Abdul-Jabbar so I’m going with recent history and predicting Chicago over Milwaukee in five games.
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