1984 Eastern Conference Finals
Don Nelson has absolutely no intention of being lured into a battle of verbiage on the subject of the Boston Celtics.
"I'll be the most boring coach you'll ever talk to," Nellie says. "I learned a long time ago from Red (Auerbach) you don't go around saying anything about your next opponent."
Nellie would prefer to discuss his team rather than the foe. Although people tend to dismiss the Bucks when championship contenders are discussed, Milwaukee has arrived in the Eastern Conference final for the second year in a row, and for the first time in four years the team needn't worry about playing its major nemesis, the Philadelphia 76ers. That alone has done a lot for the Bucks' collective psyche.
Milwaukee has won a five-game series over Atlanta and a six-gamer from New Jersey, taking the key games with great team defensive efforts while receiving excellent offensive efforts from its two acknowledged great players ("supers," in NBA lexicon), Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson.
"Make that three supers," interrupts Nellie. "Bob Lanier is doing a hell of a job. He played some gutsy series against New Jersey. I can't ask any more than he's given me."
Keep in mind that the Bucks have just defeated the team that defeated Philadelphia, which has to mean something to anyone who witnessed the succession of oustanding games the Nets played against the 1983 champions. "That's a very good basketball team," reminds Nets coach Stan Albeck. "They've got people who can shoot from the outside. They can put the ball on the floor. They are as smart as any team in the league. And they play great defense."
All the same, it is a team with limitations. Lanier must be spotted just so, and Nellie never knows what he can expect from his power forwards, Alton Lister and Paul Mokeski. In addition, point guard Mike Dunleavy is hobbling with a severely bruised thigh.
"It's just a good team, not a great team," admits Nelson. "But it's a pleasure to coach because it has intelligent players who play hard, and who play together."
Here are those players:
SIDNEY MONCRIEF (6-4, G-F)
NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Extremely aggressive. As good a post-up guard as there is. As Al McGuire would say, this guy's got a huge valentine.
MARQUES JOHNSON (6-6, F)
Graceful, acrobatic, intelligent forward who can pass, rebound and defend with most anyone. Must be kept from offensive boards.
BOB LANIER (6-11, C)
Milwaukee's samurai warrior . . . A big ol' cutie who understands the whys and wherefores of pivot play, offensively and defensively, as well as anyone anywhere . . . Coming off a fine series with the Nets.
ALTON LISTER (6-11, F-C)
Poor man's Larry Nance . . . Effective post-up player . . . Very good shot blocker . . . A big game from him usually ensures a Bucks' victory.
MIKE DUNLEAVY (6-2, G)
From Wall Street to the NBA playoffs . . . Classic playmaking guard who also loves to fire up three-pointers.
JUNIOR BRIDGEMAN (6-5, F-G)
Instant Offense . . . A Buck rarity in that he doesn't post people . . . Dangerous outside shooter.
PAUL PRESSEY (6-5, G-F)
Simply a good ath-a-lete . . . Hit big bucket in Game 6 vs. Nets . . . Can press the hell out of people.
PAUL MOKESKI (7-0, F-C)
Has Nellie found a million-dollar baby in a five-and-ten-cent store? . . . Waived by, ugh, Cleveland, but has found a home in Milwaukee as key backup swingman.
HARVEY CATCHINGS (6-9, C-F)
Another versatile veteran sub . . . Remembered in Boston for one regrettable elbow that caved in Larry Bird's face, but is really a very good guy who has made a career out of jumping and hustling.
RANDY BREUER (7-3, C)
First draft pick. He helped club in spots . . . Still accommodating himself to amazing size, and could yet be a Mark Eaton, but only if he bulks up considerably.
KEVIN GREVEY (6-4, G)
Was supposed to replace Brian Winters, but never got going and appears to have no place in Nellie's scheme of things . . . In his prime was a valuable outside shooter.
LORENZO ROMAR (6-1, G)
Demonstrated some playmaking skill while with Golden State, but is strictly a 12th man here.