Skip to main content

The Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks rivalry isn’t quite Celtics vs. Lakers, but it’s growing. The two franchises have been among the top teams in the Eastern Conference the last couple of seasons and are expected to battle it out for the top spot this year.

The Celtics and Bucks meet for the first time this season on Christmas. It will be the first of three meetings this season between the two teams (the Bucks only go to Boston once this year), although they’ll likely get a chance to catch up in the postseason. The Celtics and Bucks have had some memorable moments over the years, and we took a look back at five of them.

No. 5: Terry Rozier lights it up against ‘Drew’ Bledsoe in Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks 2018 playoff matchup

It was Game 1 in the opening round of the 2018 playoffs. The Celtics hosted the Bucks in what turned out to be a series-opening overtime thriller. Terry Rozier drained a long three-pointer that snapped a tie with 10 seconds to play before Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton responded with a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

Rozier and the Celtics got the last laugh, outscoring the Bucks 14-8 in the extra session en route to a 113-107 victory. Rozier finished the game with 23 points. His three-pointer came with Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe defending him. Rozier outscored Bledsoe 23-9 in the game. During the postgame press conference, Rozier either misspoke or took a little dig at Bledsoe by referring to him as “Drew Bledsoe,” a former quarterback for the New England Patriots.

“We definitely feel like they’re not as quick laterally as us, but they’re very tall and athletic,” Rozier said, per “We just tried to move the ball offensively and get great shots, while defensively, we wanted to play long and show our arms.

“Giannis, he loves to push the ball. Drew Bledsoe, he loves to push the ball. Khris Middleton, he makes tough shots.”

Rozier and the Celtics outlasted the Bucks in seven games. Before Game 1 of the next series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rozier wore a Drew Bledsoe jersey to the game. 

No. 4: Kevin McHale drags a Bucks fan out of the stands

It was Game 3 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the Celtics held a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 was in Milwaukee, and Celtics forward Kevin McHale had just fouled out. McHale had been nursing a foot injury that kept him out of Game 1 and held him to a reserve role in Game 2.

As McHale headed to the bench after picking up his sixth foul, a heckler from behind the bench taunted McHale, who walked right over the bench and pulled the fan onto the floor, grabbing him by his tie.

“McHale came off the floor, and he climbed over our chairs and went into the stands,” Celtics reserve Fred Roberts told Sportscasting in May. “I don’t know what was said or what started it, but he just climbed over us and confronted someone.”

Jerry Sichting, a Celtics guard on that ’87 team, also gave his view of the incident to Sportscasting.

“I think he was a lawyer or something,” Sichting said of the fan. “There was some crazy stuff in the paper about us doing drugs on the bench or something, and he was saying stuff. I think he just wanted a lawsuit.

“McHale went over and grabbed him by the tie and pulled him in front of the bench. I’m in the middle of the huddle. I can only imagine if that happened today, how many guys would have been suspended. Security carried him out.”

No. 3: The Bucks stun the Celtics in Game 5 of the ’87 conference semifinals

The Celtics held a 3-1 series lead in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals and were headed back home to try and close things out. Boston just outlasted Milwaukee in a double-overtime thriller in Game 4, winning 138-137. Now, the Bucks had to play in Boston, a place they rarely had success. Bird and the Celtics felt confident about getting things done in Game 5.

“They’ve got to beat us twice in the Garden, and nobody’s done that in a long time,” Bird said after Game 4, per United Press International. “And we’re going to play better on Wednesday night than we did here. We always play better at home. So, if they’re going to beat us, they’re going to have to take their game up a notch.”

“We were confident we were going to win Game 5,” Sichting told Sportscasting. “We were very good at home, but they were a very good team. They were deeper than us. They got more from their bench than we did. Still, when you have Bird, McHale, (Robert) Parish, that’s tough to beat at home.”

Parish got hurt in the game, and Milwaukee guard Sidney Moncrief stepped it up with 33 points in a shocking 129-124 win in Boston. The Bucks beat the Celtics, who played without Parish, in Game 6, but the Celtics escaped with a 119-113 win in Game 7.

No. 2: Jayson Tatum leads the desperate Celtics to a Game 6 win in the 2022 conference semis

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics is defended by Wesley Matthews of the Milwaukee Bucks during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Fiserv Forum on May 13, 2022, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

The Celtics were seeded No. 2 last year and had homecourt advantage over the third-seeded Bucks. Playing at home, however, mattered very little in this series.

Jayson Tatum hadn’t played consistent basketball in the series. He showed signs of stardom, but then he became a turnover machine who didn’t shoot very well. When Boston’s back was against the wall in Game 6, Tatum took over.

The Celtics faced elimination in Milwaukee in Game 6. They had lost two of the last three games, and Tatum was an ugly 5-for-27 from three-point land during that stretch. When it counted most, Tatum put the team on his back.

He went for 46 points in Boston’s 108-95 victory that kept the Celtics’ season alive. He made seven of 15 shots from behind the arc and went 17-for-32 from the floor. The Celtics then went on to win Game 7 and earn a berth in the conference final against the top-seeded Miami Heat.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s baseline skyhook caps 2OT thriller in Game 6 of the 1974 NBA Finals


Boston Celtics: Jerry Sichting, Sam Vincent Talk Bucks vs. Celtics Playoff Series Then and Now

The Celtics and Bucks met in the 1974 NBA Finals, with the Bucks, led by a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the veteran Oscar Robertson, having homecourt advantage.

The Celtics stole Game 1 with a 98-83 victory, but the Bucks reclaimed homecourt advantage with a victory in Boston in Game 4. After winning Game 5 in Milwaukee, the Celtics looked to clinch the championship at home in Game 6.

Game 6 was an epic battle that was knotted at 86-86 at the end of regulation. After each team scored four points in overtime, the game went to a second overtime, where Abdul-Jabbar won the game with his patented skyhook from the baseline with seconds remaining. He finished with a team-high 34 points. Boston’s John Havlicek led all scorers with 36.

The Celtics returned to Milwaukee for Game 7 and rode Dave Cowens’ game-high 28 points to a 102-87 victory.