Celtics (20-7) vs. Bucks (19-10)
December 9, 1979
After a flat performance the prior night in Cleveland, the Celtics arrived at 400 West Kilbourn Avenue with a plan to re-insert themselves in first place in the Atlantic Division with a victory over an NBA stalwart in their final year in the Western Conference.
The Bucks played their home games at the Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center and Arena, known fondly as the MECCA, and it provided one of the best home court advantages. Unlike the Bradley Center, where the Bucks moved in 1988 in hopes of luring an NHL franchise, this building was designed specifically for basketball. A capacity crowd of 10,938 packed into the building to catch their first glimpse of Larry Bird as a Celtic, and per usual, the man wearing #33 did not disappoint. Bird led the Celtics with 25 points in 113-108 victory over the Bucks.
In addition to Bird’s near triple double of 25/11/8, he continued to quietly limit his turnovers, and shot 10-for-20 from the field. The whole Celtics starting five came out with a vengeance, proving the loss in Cleveland the prior night was simply a fluke. Dave Cowens bounced back from his worst game of the season with a sensational effort. Big Red manned the middle and delivered 23 points, 11 boards, and two blocked shots against future coach Don Nelson’s Bucks, and Cedric Maxwell shot fifty percent from the field to add 18 points and 8 rebounds. After allowing 7 turnovers the night before at the Richfield Coliseum, Max was turnover-free in Milwaukee.
Tiny Archibald played a complete 48 minutes yet showed no signs of wear and tear, adding 19 points and 10 assists (though he did combine for 9 turnovers over the past two games, a very high number considering the type of basketball he had played through more than a quarter of the NBA season). Chris Ford hit another two 3-pointers and, unlike the prior night, the Celtics used a fast start in the first quarter to catapult them into success for the rest of the game. Turnovers were limited, only allowing 15, and the C’s withstood a 25 point performance from Bucks standout Marques Johnson. Fellow rookie Junior Bridgeman fell short in his comparison to Bird, finishing with 12 points, and future Celtic Quinn Buckner added 17 points and 9 assists.
The Bucks traveled to Boston for the rematch on December 14, but in the meantime, the Celtics returned home to face the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night before starting another series of three games/three-cities/three nights the following weekend.