For three years the Milwaukee Bucks came close to...


MILWAUKEE -- For three years the Milwaukee Bucks came close to the NBA conference finals and were turned away each time.

But Monday night the Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics 107-93 to complete a four-game sweep of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.


The Bucks will now meet the Philadelphia 76ers in the conference finals beginning Sunday in Philadelphia.

In the last two seasons, the 76ers eliminated the Bucks in the semifinals. Three years ago, while members of the Western Conference, the Bucks lost to the Seattle SuperSonics in the semifinals.

The Bucks were led by Marques Johnson, who scored 33 points, and Sidney Moncrief, who added 25.

'This is my biggest win as a coach,' said the Bucks' Don Nelson, whose team won a seven-game series for the first time in his seven seasons in Milwaukee. 'I'm just so tickled. I usually come in second.'

For the Celtics, who have won an NBA record 14 championships, getting swept is unique.

This was the first time the Celtics failed to win a game in a playoff series since they lost to the New York Knicks 2-0 in the 1951 semifinals.

'This is very embarrassing,' said Larry Bird, who led the Celtics with 18 points. 'I felt we had a great opportunity to win, no matter how many games we were down. But we just weren't as good as we thought we were.'


Cedric Maxwell had 15 and Robert Parish had 12 for the losers.

The Bucks had their biggest lead when Junior Bridgeman hit an 18-foot jumper late in the third period to make it 67-47. But the Celtics, with Bird and Maxwell doing most of the scoring, closed the gap to 75-63 by the end of the quarter.

Bridgeman and Brian Winters outscored the Celtics 7-2 at the start of the fourth period to give Milwaukee an 82-65 lead. The Celtics never got closer than 11 points after that.

The Bucks led 46-37 at the half, largely because of the play of Johnson. The forward scored 21 points in the half, 15 in the first quarter. Despite Johnson's heroics, Boston took an early lead for the fourth consecutive game. With four different starters scoring, the Celtics raced to a 12-4 lead.

But the Bucks, who shot only 35 percent in the period, came back behind the play of Johnson and Bridgeman, who came off the bench to spark the Bucks.

With Milwaukee trailing 19-18 late in the quarter, Johnson hit a jumper and Bridgeman connected on two foul shots for a 23-19 lead at the end of the quarter.

Boston tied the score early in the second period when Kevin McHale tipped in a Bird missed shot. But the Bucks then went ahead 45-34. The Celtics closed the halftime gap to 46-37 when Danny Ainge scored three points late in the period.


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