The luckless Milwaukee Bucks will go into the playoffs without two of their most important offensive components and seem destined for another frustrating finish.
Quinn Buckner, who directed the Bucks' widely varied offense, tore a major ligament in his right thumb and will miss the rest of the season. The six-year veteran led the team in assists, averaged 12.9 points and was the team's best defensive guard.
Junior Bridgeman, one of the best of the league's sixth men, has a stress fracture in his left foot and is wearing a cast. Plagued by the bothersome foot all season, the 6-foot-5 swing man was averaging 12.5 points in 41 games after leading all NBA reserves in scoring the last three seasons.
"We'll just have to move people around," Coach Don Nelson said. "It's been like this all season. We started without Marques Johnson (a holdout for the first 22 games) and it's been one thing right after the other."
Nelson's latest shuffle has joined his two shooting guards, Brian Winters and Sidney Moncrief, in the back court, with Marques Johnson to relieve them. When Johnson shifts to the back court, Scott May comes in at small forward. Mickey Johnson and Pat Cummings are sharing the other forward spot, with rookie Alton Lister backing up Bob Lanier in the middle.
Although the Bucks have clinched their second successive Central Division title, they are fighting Philadelphia for the second-best record in the East, behind Boston. The potential reward is the home-court advantage, should they meet the 76ers in the semifinals again. Last season they lost the seventh game in Philadelphia by one point.
Before shedding any tears for Nelson, however, you should be reminded that the Bucks have won their last five games. The big test will come tonight when the sizzling Celtics arrive in town.