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John Papanek
April 24, 1978
Rookie Marques Johnson (below) did everything, including faking the Suns out of their socks, as he led youthful Milwaukee to a stunning first-round upset
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April 24, 1978

Brash Young Bucks

Rookie Marques Johnson (below) did everything, including faking the Suns out of their socks, as he led youthful Milwaukee to a stunning first-round upset

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The effect of MacLeod's action, of course, was to incite the Bucks. And that was not the Suns' only miscalculation. Just before the tip-off in Memorial Coliseum the crowd was informed that Davis had been voted Rookie of the Year by the NBA players in a 139-16 landslide over Johnson. (The winner of the "official" rookie award, voted upon by writers and broadcasters, has not yet been announced.)

The announcement whipped up the fans, as well as Davis, who proceeded to show why he thought the vote should have been unanimous. He scored 15 points in the first half on drives, end-to-end fast breaks, bank shots and one impossible double-pump-spinning-under-handed-flip-while-triple-teamed underneath the basket. In addition, Westphal and Adams were scoring at will over Buckner and Gianelli, and it seemed that not even whips and chains could slow down the dashing Suns as they opened up a 12-point lead in the second period.

Only Winters' six-for-eight shooting and Forward David Meyers' brutal inside offense kept the Bucks close enough for Johnson, stung by the Rookie of the Year announcement, to make the difference in the second half.

"I had a nice little talk with myself during halftime," says Johnson, "and I decided I wasn't happy with how I played in the first half. I decided that in the second half I was just going to hit the boards, set picks for Brian and take the shot when I had it."

Johnson stuck to his resolutions, personally cleaning the glass at both ends for the remainder of the game and hitting seven of 10 shots to finish with 16 rebounds and 24 points. He also set enough picks for Winters to make eight of 13, including a pair of quick jumpers that gave the Bucks the lead for good at 87-85.

While Milwaukee was shooting 61% in the fourth quarter, MacLeod was running subs in and out of the game as though he were coaching hockey. Result: the Suns hit a mere 36%. Westphal, who scored a modest 20 points, was either immobilized by Winters or on MacLeod's bench. Davis matched Winters' total of 31 points, but he was really no match for Johnson.

During the off-days before Friday's meeting in Milwaukee, dark clouds hung over swimming pools all around Phoenix. MacLeod admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully ("I should not have implied that the whole team was dirty, just certain individuals," he said), and more than one Sun complained about all the substituting and questioned MacLeod's verbal tactics.

Nelson was asked if he considered the win "a steal." "Well," he said, "as Jimmy the Greek would say, we were seven-point underdogs."

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee there was a flash epidemic of Friday Night Fever. "Last time we had it like this," said Buck Director of Business Operations John Steinmiller, "Travolta was still doing the twist."

Game 2 was scripted much like Game 1, except that it was played in double decibels—quadruple when MacLeod was introduced and a banner hoisted that said MACLEOD PLAYS DIRTY WITH HIS MOUTH. Phoenix took immediate control, out-scoring the Bucks 11-4 at the beginning and 15-4 at the end of the first quarter. Paced again by Westphal, Davis and Adams, the Suns had a 13-point lead midway through the second period. In the game's big defensive change for Phoenix, MacLeod put Westphal, no candidate for the NBA All-Defensive team, on Winters, who was going to score anyway, and Buse on Buckner to attack the ball and disrupt Milwaukee's flow. It worked beautifully. Buckner turned the ball over six times in the first half.

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