Guard Maurice Cheeks, whose job usually is to set up his teammates for points, led the offense tonight as the 76ers eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks from the National Basketball Association playoffs.
Cheeks, who had been averaging 13.4 points per game in the series, scored 26 to lead the 76ers to a 102-90 victory as they won the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, four games to two.
Andrew Toney scored 17 points for the 76ers, who advance to the conference championship series against the defending NBA champion Celtics starting Sunday in Boston. The Western Conference championship series also begins Sunday with San Antonio at Los Angeles.
"It was stressed to me in the pregame warmups to go to the basket more, to make (Bucks guard) Brian Winters play me," Cheeks said. "I have more quickness than he has . . . I think I surprised them."
"Cheeks almost carried us by himself in the third quarter when we opened it up," 76ers Coach Billy Cunningham said. "But the real key was we didn't drop down at the defensive end."
Bucks Coach Don Nelson agreed. "Better credit their defense rather than our offensive breakdowns," he said. "We didn't have a shot that wasn't contested after the first quarter."
Mickey Johnson led the Bucks with 23 points, but all-star guard Sidney Moncrief, playing with a sprained right hand, was held to nine.
Cheeks, who made six of his first seven shots, scored five points in the early minutes of the second half as the 76ers stretched a nine-point halftime lead to 55-43.
Moncrief, who missed four of his first five shots, sank a long jumper and Winters made two to help the Bucks pull within four. But Cheeks scored on a drive and on a breakaway layup as the 76ers regained a nine-point lead, 66-57, with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
Two free throws by Andrew Toney and dunks by Bobby Jones and Julius Erving made it 72-59 with 2:50 left in the period. It was 76-66 at the end of the quarter, as the Bucks made only seven of 23 shots in the period against the 76ers' pressure defense.
"We didn't play very intelligently," said Bucks center Bob Lanier.
The Bucks, outmanned throughout the playoffs because guard Quinn Buckner and swingman Junior Bridgeman were sidelined with injuries, appeared to be wearing down as the 76ers scored three fast-break baskets to lead, 84-70, with 8:32 to play. A jumper by reserve Clint Richardson made it 88-72 with 5:50 left.