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1992 NBA Season – Unbelievabulls

May 13, 2017

SI nov 11 1991

The World Champion Chicago Bulls were the team to beat heading into the 1992 NBA season *photo courtesy of Getty Images

According to the NBA preview Sports Illustrated addition, the Bulls were going to win a second straight title and were going to beat Portland in the Finals.

Writer Jack McCallum seemed to think the balance of power was in the West.  After Chicago, his best championship contenders were Portland, L.A. Lakers, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Utah.

With that being said, the thought seemed to be that the only team that could beat the Bulls were themselves.  Outside forces, like Chicago Tribune writer Sam Smith authoring The Jordan Rules, were potentially divisive.  Another potentially divisive situation was Scottie Pippen signing a contract extension after the 1991 season that signed him through 1997-98 (and would look worse as time went on).  Pippen’s deal made sure that he never higher paid than Jordan (who was signed through the 1995-96 season after signing an 8-year contract in 1988), but eventually put Pippen behind many, many other players as salaries sky-rocketed in the ’90’s.

Ultimately, what would test the Bulls the most were rising and rejuvenated teams in the East that were not among the top 9 championship contenders in McCallum’s NBA preview edition.  A long season of added pressure didn’t help either.

But, after the first week of the season, the biggest story would be dealing with more than basketball.

Magic Johnson had sat out the Lakers’ first 3 games of the regular season with an “illness” and the Lakers had gone 1-2 (amazingly, playing three overtime games).  Then on November 7, 1991, Magic and his agent called a press conference.

The world was shocked with the announcement and many (sports fans or not) remember where they were when they heard about this announcement from Magic.

Many did not know about HIV or AIDs at the time, and this announcement raised a lot of questions.  The biggest would be how long Magic had to live.  Magic survives to this day and over the years, he would help educate the world about HIV & AIDs.

At the time, it was not known that the virus could be spread through heterosexual intercourse because it had really only come up in gay communities.  So many, perhaps including Magic, didn’t think they were at risk.  But testing skyrocketed after the announcement because now it was in the public eye that anybody could contract HIV/AIDs.  Since that day in 1991, research, awareness and medicine has gone way, way up.  A lot of thanks for that goes to Magic.

Magic would make a return for the 1992 NBA All-Star Game (because he had been on the Lakers’ roster at the beginning of the season, he was on the ballot and fans voted for him) and the 1992 Olympics.

All is documented in this 30 for 30.

As for the Lakers, their record fell off and they would be out of the championship contender list.  They had traded 3 future 2nd round picks to Seattle for Sedale Threatt.  While Threatt was more than adequate as the point guard, he was no Magic Johnson.  Threatt, teamed with James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Vlade Divac, Byron Scott, A.C. Green, Terry Teagle, Elden Campbell, Tony Smith, and coached by Mike Dunleavy (basically the same team that made the 1991 NBA Finals) finished at 43-39.

But they did beat out a faltering Houston Rockets team for the 8th playoff spot on the final day of the season.  Houston lost to Phoenix on the final day to finish at 42-40 while the Lakers beat the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime to gain the spot.  These weren’t the same old Clippers either.  They finished at 45-37 to make the playoffs for the first time since they were the Buffalo Braves in 1976.

This set up the first time that the two teams in Los Angeles made the playoffs and would be made even more unique by the events of April 29, 1992 in L.A.

On April 29, the same day that the Lakers were taking on top-seeded Portland in Game 3 of their playoff series at the Great Western Forum and a day after the Clippers had played Game 3 of their playoff series against Utah at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, a trial jury acquitted four LAPD officers of charges for excessive force in the videotaped arrest and beating of Rodney King in March, 1991.

After the verdict was announced, rioting went on in Los Angeles for 6 days.  This forced the NBA to delay both series while moving the games elsewhere.  The Clippers and Jazz played Game 4 in Anaheim where the Clips won to tie the series at 2-2.  The Lakers/Blazers series was moved to Las Vegas, where the Blazers blew out the Lakers to eliminate them 3-1.

But the delay of both games until Sunday, May 3 would set up a scheduling quirk in the Utah/Clippers series after the Clippers won Game 4.  They traveled to Utah and played the all-or-nothing Game 5 the next night.  Perhaps playing on emotion, the Clippers grabbed as much as a 15-point lead and led 52-40 at halftime.  But they ran out of gas and the Jazz came back to win 98-89.  But on that same day, the curfew was lifted in Los Angeles and things slowly returned to normalcy.

It was quite a season for the Lakers and quite a spring in Los Angeles.

But the best basketball of the season would still be played in Chicago.  And the 7-2 Bulls were trying to avenge an early-season home defeat at the hands of an interesting team that had made a interesting trade less than 3 weeks prior to this game.

November 20, 1991 – Chicago Bulls 112 @Golden State Warriors 108

The Golden State Warriors had one of the most entertaining teams in 1990-91.  Although they finished at 44-38, they upset the Midwest Division champion San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round and then gave the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers a run for their money in a close 5-game series.

The Warriors had a young roster led by Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, and Mitch Richmond (known as Run TMC) and coach Don Nelson had instilled a modern day offense that created matchup problems for opponents.  But since it was still 1991, the Warriors felt they needed to get bigger if they wanted to advance further in the playoffs.

In back-to-back draft picks (16 and 17), they took big men Chris Gatling and Victor Alexander.  But they weren’t done.  Just before the 1992 season opened, Nellie (who was also the GM) sent Mitch Richmond (and Les Jepsen) to Sacramento for their 1st round draft pick, Billy Owens.  Owens was the 3rd pick of the draft and Nellie felt he’d add rebounding as well as versatility in being able to play multiple positions.

Evidently, Nelson called it the “worst trade I’ve ever made” 23 years later.

But, at the start of the season, it didn’t seem so bad.  The Warriors were off to a 7-2 start and had defeated the Bulls in Chicago 15 days prior.  That game was actually Billy Owens’ debut (he signed a contract late), but Chris Mullin stole the show with 38 points.  Golden State out-scored Chicago 31-18 in the 4th quarter to win 118-110.

The Bulls had won 6 in a row since and wanted some vengeance.  Chicago had not made many changes to its 1991 roster.  They drafted Mark Randall out of Kansas with their 1st round pick.  But he’d be released at the end of December along with Chuck Nevitt (who was picked up in November).

The Bulls had Randall and Nevitt as insurance as Scott Williams was still out recovering from off-season shoulder surgery (he’d make his season debut on November 23).  Bill Cartwright would also be out until the end of December after breaking a bone in his hand on November 15.  The Bulls would also be without Craig Hodges until December.

But the one trade that was made was on November 4 when the Bulls sent disgruntled Dennis Hopson to Sacramento for veteran guard Bobby Hansen.  Hansen would fill a void at guard with Hodges out and he would stay around for the rest of the season.

In the first matchup between the teams, Owens had not started.  Now Owens was Nellie’s 6’9″ two-guard, but it would end up backfiring matchup-wise.  Owens was not put on Jordan, which meant Mullin had to play MJ.  After the first 2 minutes, Nelson took out his starting center Victor Alexander (who wouldn’t play the rest of the game) and put Sarunas Marciulionis at guard (moving Owens to forward).

Nelson had to do this with 10:13 left in the 1st quarter because the Bulls had taken a 6-0 lead.  Jordan hit a pull-up in transition.  Horace Grant hit a lefty hook from the post.  Scottie Pippen then pushed the ball and found Grant on the break for a slam.

At the other end of the floor, MJ was put on Mullin to cool him off after the previous game in Chicago.  The Bulls held their early lead and swarmed the Warriors defensively, causing turnovers and forcing around 33% shooting from Golden State in the 1st quarter.

Grant was the beneficiary of feeds from Jordan and Pippen.  He scored 10 1st quarter points as he also got on the offensive boards.  Grant also got a steal late in the quarter and fed Pippen for a flying breakaway slam.  This put the Bulls up 11 and they held a 28-16 lead heading into the 2nd quarter.

Stacey King gave the Bulls a spark early in the 2nd quarter as he scored 9 of his 11 1st half points.  Marciulionis would be the Warriors’ spark-plug but he picked up his 4th foul mid-way through the quarter.

The Bulls grabbed as much as a 15-point lead in the 2nd quarter but the Warriors hung around thanks to their bench.  Even without Marciulionis, Vincent Askew, Mario Elie, and Rod Higgins hit some big shots.  They, along with Mullin and Hardaway, kept Golden State within 54-45 at the half.

Mullin had 11, while Hardaway and Marciulionis contributed 8.  Pippen led the Bulls with 14 while Jordan had 13 and Grant 12.

The Warriors started out strongly in the 2nd half and cut the Bulls lead to 59-56.  But then Jordan scored 5 straight points and Chicago regained a 66-56 lead after Grant got another layup.

Askew then hit a runner in the lane and Higgins followed with a three.  Hardaway got a steal and fast break reverse to cut the lead back to 66-63 with 5:45 left in the quarter.  Pippen stemmed the tide with a jumper but then Higgins got a three-point play after a feed from Mullin.  Mullin followed with a breakaway layup and then Higgins tipped in a miss by Mullin on another fast break.

The Warriors had come back to take the lead.  But, as was customary with Phil Jackson, the Bulls didn’t call a timeout and MJ silenced the crowd with a jumper from the top.

Chicago eventually regained a 6-point lead when B.J. Armstrong fed Pippen for a three-point play and then hit a pull-up from the foul line.  Jordan also scored his 12th point of the quarter on a one-handed double-pump banker after a baseline drive.

But, in the last 14 seconds of the quarter, Armstrong stepped out of bounds on the baseline after he and Jackson felt he was bumped by Hardaway, but there was no call.  Hardaway then backed up Armstrong 1-on-1 and nailed a three with 0.3 seconds left to cut the Chicago advantage to 81-78 heading into the 4th.

During the break, Phil Jackson picked up a technical as a result of at least one foul that should have been called on Hardaway, in his mind.

Marciulionis came in for the first time since picking up his 4th foul in the 2nd quarter and almost personally kept the Warriors in the game.  But Jordan made sure Chicago stayed ahead with 8 points and a feed to Armstrong for a corner three.

But Marciulionis was relentless and scored his 11th point of the quarter on a scoop shot after rebounding a miss by Mullin.  This gave Golden State a 95-94 lead with 7:47 left.

But Golden State went cold over the next 2 1/2 minutes.  Jordan hit a pull-up from the elbow.  Cliff Levingston hit two free throws.  Grant got another layup after a feed from Armstrong.  Then, after a block from Horace, MJ found Pippen for a layup on a 3-on-1 that forced Nellie to use a timeout with 5:08 left.  The Bulls were up 102-95.

Golden State cut it back to one after going on an 8-2 run, but missed their chance at re-grabbing the lead after Hardaway missed a pull-up jumper.  Marciulionis then picked up his 5th foul on the rebound.

Each team split a pair of free throws before Pippen hit a pull-up from the wing at the end of the shot clock (and after Jordan was doubled and kicked it to him) to give Chicago a 107-104 lead with 2:06 left.

Jordan later rebounded a Hardaway miss and found Levingston who drew a foul.  But Cliff missed both free throws and Jordan fouled Askew on the rebound.  But Askew missed both free throws as well.  These misses highlighted a night in which the Bulls finished 27-for-40 from the line and Golden State ended up 20-for-32.

The teams then traded missed field goals, including Marciulionis trying to tie it with a three.  Marciulionis then fouled out as he sent Armstrong to the line.  B.J. hit 5-of-6 free throws in the last 50 seconds to help finish off the Warriors on this night.

The Bulls would start out their 6-game west coast (annual late November circus trip) road trip with a win.  They won two nights later in Seattle in a game that was memorable because it would be the last time that Michael Jordan fouled out of a game (both Jordan and Pippen fouled out and the Bulls still won in overtime).  They would take on a tough Portland team at the end of the trip.

Golden State had no problems with the trade during the season.  They sat at 46-23 (3.5 games behind Portland at the top) when they went to New Jersey for a late-season high-scoring matchup against an improved team.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (26) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (16) – Power Forward

Will Perdue (2) – Center

John Paxson (4) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (35) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (12)

Stacey King (13)

Cliff Levingston (4)

Bobby Hansen (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Golden State starters (points scored)

Chris Mullin (18) – Small Forward

Tyrone Hill (6) – Power Forward

Victor Alexander (0) – Center

Tim Hardaway (18) – Point Guard

Billy Owens (7) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Sarunas Marciulionis (22)

Rod Higgins (22)

Mario Elie (6)

Vincent Askew (9)

Tom Tolbert (0)

Golden State Coach: Don Nelson

November 29, 1991 – Chicago Bulls 116 @Portland Blazers 114 (2OT)

Although the aforementioned Portland Trailblazers would beat out the Golden State Warriors for the Pacific Division title, they were going through some adjustments and mental hurdles early in the 1992 season.

In losing to the Lakers in the 1991 Western Conference Finals, Portland learned that they weren’t patient enough to run an effective halfcourt offense.  Their game was more scramble, fast break, and chaotic.  But when push came to shove and they had to execute, they couldn’t at key moments.

The Trailblazers, under coach Rick Adelman, were now trying to work on that stuff and were off to a shaky 9-5 start, although they had rebounded from a 1-3 beginning.  But still, their outside shooting (or lack of it) was the main issue.

Their two best shooters, Terry Porter and Danny Ainge, were struggling.  Porter had lost his father around training camp, so things were probably still weighing on his mind.  It continued to look like it in the 1st half.

Portland took an early lead thanks to their offensive board work, one of their big strengths.  But each team was turning the ball over early on as well.

Chicago was on a 10-game winning streak (including 4-0 on their annual circus road trip to the west coast), but there were signs of fatigue as well with the Bulls.

But their biggest thing would be superstars battling injuries.  Michael Jordan appeared to strain his lower back on a drive to the basket where he drew a foul.  Scottie Pippen was battling knee tendinitis.  Each would have their moments of brilliance but, at other times, looked to be affected by these injuries.

Pippen and Jerome Kersey each led their teams with 7 points in the 1st quarter as Chicago grabbed a 24-23 lead.

But in the 2nd quarter, Chicago’s bench out-played Portland’s.  Stacey King continued his mini-resurgence (that would mostly last through December) and had 6 points early on.  B.J. Armstrong also hit two jumpers to give the Bulls a 32-26 lead and force Adelman to use a timeout with 9:17 left in the half.

Jordan would score 8 Chicago points in a row later as the Bulls went on a 10-3 run to take a 46-34 advantage halfway through the quarter.  MJ scored 14 points in the quarter and finished with 20 for the half.  King would contribute 12 off the bench.

But Portland wouldn’t let the lead grow any more as Clyde Drexler had a strong finish to get to 13 points.  Kersey followed with 11.  But Terry Porter would be held scoreless and just didn’t look aggressive.  The Bulls led 56-47 at the break.

The Bulls continued to lead early on in the 3rd, but Porter got going with feeds to Drexler and Kersey for slams and then he nailed a pull-up jumper for his first two points.

Portland later went on a 5-0 run, culminating with a reverse slam from Drexler after an alley-oop pass from Buck Williams, to cut the lead to 66-62.  Then after Pippen nailed a jumper, Porter came right back with a three.

The Blazers were never able to grab the lead in the 3rd quarter but did force Jordan to pick up his 4th foul with 1:43 left.  They also cut it to 77-76 heading into the 4th quarter.

But at the start of the 4th, Portland did go ahead after Alaa Abdelnaby and Kevin Duckworth scored down low.  But Scottie Pippen, despite missing two free throws and then catching his own airball on a wild shot, scored 7 points in a row to put the Bulls back ahead.

Pippen got hotter as the quarter went on and made two more jumpers to bring his game total to 22 points.  A Jordan steal and B.J. Armstrong breakaway put Chicago up 90-86 and forced Portland to use a timeout with 5:53 left.

But the Trailblazers, especially Drexler and Porter, were on their game and came back to take a 93-92 lead and force Phil Jackson to use a timeout with 3:25 left.  But Drexler put Portland up by three with a step-through banker against Pippen in the post for his 6th point in a row.

Pippen would come right back with a high-arcing jumper from the wing.  Kersey then tipped in a Porter miss.  Armstrong hit a jumper from the wing after Pippen penetrated.  Drexler then drove down the lane for a layup to give the Blazers a 99-96 lead with 1:24 left.

The Blazers would then force a few Chicago misses but couldn’t grab a defensive rebound.  Pippen rebounded a Jordan miss with under 50 seconds left (to give Chicago their 4th shot on this possession) and gave it back to Michael.  MJ drove and drew a double team.  He then kicked it out to Armstrong at the top for a three-pointer that tied the game at 99 with 35 seconds left.

After a Portland timeout, they ran the clock down but Kersey missed a wing jumper.  Horace Grant rebounded and got it ahead to Pippen.  But Scottie, looking like he lost complete track of time, slowed the ball down as the clock was ticking the final 10 seconds and no timeout was being used.

Pippen finally got it to MJ who had to force a long three-pointer and came up short.  The two fatigued teams would now go into overtime.

Four minutes would go by in the first overtime and only 6 total points were scored.  Portland grabbed a 103-101 lead but missed several opportunities to increase that lead.

Finally, Jordan (after missing 11 of his last 12 shot attempts) hit a banker from the post after a fake to tie the game with under a minute left.  But Porter would give Portland the lead again with a pull-up from the foul line with 30.4 seconds left.

The Bulls used a timeout this time and got it to Michael earlier.  Jordan drove but missed a tough up-and-under shot on the drive.  Kersey rebounded with 15 seconds left and proved old habits die hard.

Kersey immediately threw a long dangerous pass to Porter at half-court.  Porter was able to grab it in between two Bulls but then traveled while trying to go to the basket.

In a situation where Portland needed to calm down, not try to force the play and just get fouled, they did the exact opposite.  Their chaotic, scramble mentality took over and gave Chicago another chance.

Jordan got the ball, drove again, and drew a foul from Drexler.  But it was Portland’s foul to give and Chicago got the ball on the side with 5.1 seconds left.  After a timeout, Jordan went to the left baseline, pivoted, and got off a fall-away jumper that went in with 1.2 seconds left to tie the game.

Almost interestingly, Pippen was called for a foul on Danny Ainge after the shot went in.  But Chicago was not in the bonus and no free throws would be attempted by Ainge.  The game would subsequently go into double overtime after Porter airballed a wild shot.

The Trailblazers would again take the early lead but went cold halfway through the 2nd overtime.  Chicago didn’t this time and would take a 115-109 lead with 1:08 to go after Jordan nailed another fall-away from the baseline.  It was the 8th consecutive point by the Bulls.

But Portland, to their credit, didn’t go down easily.  Porter hit a driving banker.  Pippen then missed a jumper at the end of the shot clock and MJ missed a seemingly easy follow-up.  Drexler was then fouled but split his free throws (Clyde finished 6-for-12 from the line).

But then MJ missed another jumper and Porter got the ball after a rebound scramble.  He got it ahead to Drexler for a breakaway slam to cut the lead to 115-114 with 8 seconds left.  But then Drexler fouled out after committing one on Jordan.

MJ would split his free throws and Portland got a final chance with 3.5 seconds left.  But Porter couldn’t get off a final shot and the Bulls survived.

Chicago, despite its fatigue, would win in Sacramento the next night and eventually set a franchise record with 14 consecutive wins.  They would then try to match that in January.

Portland would continue to right themselves and grab the best record in the West from Golden State by February.  But they would have to answer for the rest of the season whether they could win a big game against a top-notch team.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (28) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (17) – Power Forward

Will Perdue (0) – Center

John Paxson (6) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (40) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (11)

Stacey King (12)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Scott Williams (2)

Bobby Hansen (0)

Chuck Nevitt (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (21) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (16) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (14) – Center

Terry Porter (14) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (38) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Cliff Robinson (2)

Danny Ainge (2)

Alaa Abdelnaby (6)

Robert Pack (1)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

December 7, 1991 – New York Knicks 137 @Atlanta Hawks 128 (2OT)

On the 50-year anniversary of Pearl Harbor, games were still going on in the NBA (there are certain dates that I believe at least a moment of silence should be observed).

This particular one was a classic between two teams that were, more or less, in transition.  The Atlanta Hawks of the 1980’s were just about gone.  Only Dominique Wilkins and Kevin Willis (and Jon Koncak) were left from the 1988 team that took the Boston Celtics to 7 games in the Semifinals.  A lot of the rest of that team was broken up after the 1991 season.

Point guard Doc Rivers was traded to the Clippers for the 9th pick in the 1991 NBA draft (and two future 2nd rounders), which Atlanta used to select UNLV’s Stacey Augmon.  But the Hawks also gave up their backup point guard as Spud Webb was traded to Sacramento for Travis Mays (a bigger point guard from Texas who only played 2 games for the Hawks in 1992 and was gone from the NBA after 1993).

As a result, Rumeal Robinson was starting at point for Atlanta.  His backup was 35-year-old Maurice Cheeks, who Atlanta acquired from the Knicks in exchange for center Tim McCormick, who would play only 22 games for New York in his final NBA season of 1992 as the knee injuries that hampered his entire career finally became too much to overcome.

With McCormick and Moses Malone, who had signed with Milwaukee as a free agent, now gone, Atlanta’s center was shooter Blair Rasmussen.  Rasmussen was acquired from Denver in a three-team deal that sent Atlanta’s other 1991 1st round pick, Seton Hall’s Anthony Avent, to Milwaukee and a future 2nd rounder to the Nuggets.

Coach Bob Weiss filled the rest of the roster with young unproven players such as Paul Graham, Alexander Volkov, Duane Ferrell, and Rodney Monroe.  Graham and Volkov had impacts in this particular game.

With Wilkins having another strong start to the season and Willis becoming a rebounding terror like rarely before (Willis averaged 15.5 rebounds per game, 2nd in the league, in 1992 after not averaging more than 10.5 in his first 6 NBA seasons), Atlanta was off to a 10-8 start which was 3rd in the Central Division and 5th overall in the East.

Meanwhile in New York, Pat Riley was now in the process of following up what he did in Los Angeles as coach.  The Knicks had won the Atlantic Division in 1989 but had fallen short of expectations the next two seasons.  The only holdovers from 1989 were Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Mark Jackson, Gerald Wilkins and Kiki Vandeweghe.

Vandeweghe would just about be the only Knick in the regular rotation that missed any time in the 1992 season (McCormick doesn’t count in this case, even when he was able to play he didn’t play much in 1992).  Riley’s top 8 guys missed a total of 1 game in 1992.  Riley was in the process of creating a physical, defensive monster led by Ewing and Oakley.  Mark Jackson was reborn at point guard and finished 5th in the NBA at 8.6 assists per game (his highest average since his All-Star season in 1989).

Gerald Wilkins had up-and-down moments, but mostly his athleticism could not make up for his lack of shooting ability.  Wilkins split time at two-guard with John Starks; who was almost as athletic, a little bit better defender, and a much better outside shooter (even if he was streaky).  Even though he came off the bench, Starks would be New York’s 2nd leading scorer (a problem that New York would have over the next few years, in my opinion).

Starks ascension meant a disappointing year from Wilkins and New York’s new acquisition.  In L.A, Riley had the scoring small forward that could post up, run the floor, and be a main scorer in James Worthy.  Riley was hoping for similar results from Xavier McDaniel.  New York traded Jerrod Mustaf and Trent Tucker to Phoenix for the X-Man, who had averaged over 20 points per game in his last 4 1/2 seasons in Seattle but never quite fit in in Phoenix.

Although McDaniel became a physical presence for Riley and the Knicks, his 13.7 points per game in 1992 was the lowest of his career.  McDaniel averaged almost as much the next season in Boston, while coming off the bench.

Even so, McDaniel started with Ewing, Oakley, Jackson, and Wilkins for 81 of the 82 games.  Starks came off the bench along with 1st round draft pick Greg Anthony, also from UNLV, and big strong Anthony Mason, a physical specimen who was signed as a free agent after playing 24 games in his first two seasons.  As mentioned, from this top 8, only Mark Jackson missed one game.

With that continuity, New York was making noise again in the Atlantic Division.  They were one game behind Boston at this point after losing to the Celtics the previous night.  But the Knicks had been on a 6-game winning streak before that setback.

They recovered in Atlanta to grab an early 10-3 lead as Jackson scored 6 points.  Gerald Wilkins also got off to a good start in the matchup against his older brother, Dominique.  But Dominique kept Atlanta in it and even forced his brother into a technical after Gerald was called for a touch foul on a Dominique banker.

New York led 34-29 after one quarter as it became apparent that the defensive monster Riley was trying to create was not present on this night.  A layup by Dominique after some great pivot moves tied the game at 40 halfway through the 2nd quarter.  The teams would battle each other to a 56-all halftime tie.  Ewing and Dominique were the main scorers, but Willis and Gerald, along with Starks and Paul Graham off the bench were contributing as well.

A baseline jumper by Dominique gave Atlanta a 58-56 lead and gave ‘Nique 20 points.  But New York would grab a lead from there as Ewing went to work with a turnaround fall-away from the baseline and later, a vicious rebound-slam.  Bob Weiss used a small lineup for most of this game, which meant Kevin Willis (who wasn’t quite the weight-lifter he’d become later in his career) was playing center and guarding Ewing for most of the game.

Atlanta went on a 7-2 run to cut the New York lead to 72-71 on a three-point play from Dominique.  The teams would keep battling to an 80-all tie at the end of the 3rd quarter.  It wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last time they’d be tied at the end of a period on this night.

Early in the 4th quarter though, Atlanta took an advantage as Alexander Volkov drove baseline for a three-point play.  Willis followed with a hook shot in the lane.  Dominique nailed a three while drawing a foul (he missed the free throw though) and then Paul Graham got a layup after a steal by Cheeks.  Atlanta led 91-84 and New York called a timeout with 9:31 left.

Atlanta would increase the lead to as much as 10 as Dominique kept attacking and scoring.  But New York hung around as Starks got hot.  Riley also gambled by using Greg Anthony at the point instead of Jackson in the 4th quarter.  Anthony culminated an 11-2 Knicks run with two free throws to give New York a 113-111 lead with 8.2 seconds left (the run was not shown on the NBATV version of this game).

But Dominique got one more bucket against Gerald (a driving finger roll against Ewing as well, no less) to tie the game at 113 and send it into overtime.

The teams battled back and forth in the first overtime.  Paul Graham fouled out for Atlanta after 19 points.  Gerald committed his 6th foul trying for a steal against his brother.  Dominique’s two free throws gave the Hawks a 120-119 lead and gave Dominique 48 points.  Starks’ two free throws with 1:39 left gave New York the lead again but Wilkins would hit two more from the line to bring his total to 50.

Ewing then answered with a running hook across the lane while drawing a foul on Willis.  The three-point play gave the Knicks a 124-122 lead.  But Willis put back a miss by Wilkins to tie it up with 39 seconds left.

Riley didn’t use a timeout and his team went inside to Ewing.  His turnaround shot was in-and-out and Atlanta had a chance to win.  After a timeout, the ball went to Wilkins, who was predictably double-teamed.

Dominique had to kick the ball out to Cheeks at the top, who swung the ball to an open Rumeal Robinson as time was running out.  But Rumeal’s college clutchness did not translate to the NBA (while his lack of outside shooting ability did) and he was way short on his jumper at the buzzer.

Both teams ran out of gas in the second overtime and each scored two points over the first 3 minutes.  But New York grabbed a 128-126 lead with 1:47 left when Anthony fed Ewing for a slam on a pick-and-roll.  On their next possession, the Knicks put it away as Starks nailed a three at the end of the shot clock.

A turnaround jumper by McDaniel put the final nail in the coffin.  This loss would kick off a 2-7 stretch for the Hawks.  They would recover and hold the 6th spot in the East when disaster struck on January 28 in a game against Philadelphia.  Dominique Wilkins, as he recalled, was just trotting up the court when it felt like somebody kicked him in the heel.  But nobody was there.  As it turned out, Dominique tore his achilles tendon.  He would miss the rest of the season.

Without Wilkins, Atlanta went 16-24 over the rest of the season and finished 38-44, tied with the expansion Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the East.  But Miami gained the spot with a better conference record than Atlanta (27-29 as compared to 23-33).  The Hawks would rebound over the next two seasons.

Meanwhile, New York would eventually pull ahead of Boston by two games at the top of the Atlantic Division by the All-Star break.

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (18) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (6) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (43) – Center

Mark Jackson (15) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (26) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (19)

Anthony Mason (2)

Greg Anthony (8)

Brian Quinnett (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

Atlanta starters (points scored)

Dominique Wilkins (52) – Small Forward

Kevin Willis (20) – Power Forward

Blair Rasmussen (12) – Center

Rumeal Robinson (9) – Point Guard

Stacey Augmon (6) – Shooting Guard

Atlanta bench (points scored)

Paul Graham (19)

Alexander Volkov (5)

Maurice Cheeks (5)

Jon Koncak (0)

Atlanta Coach: Bob Weiss

wilkins brothers

Dominique Wilkins (left) got the better of the individual matchup against his brother Gerald on this night, but Gerald’s team won the game *photo courtesy of Pinterest

January 17, 1992 – San Antonio Spurs 96 @Chicago Bulls 102

The Chicago Bulls continued to roll on through January.  They were 31-5, had won 7 games in a row, and now had Bill Cartwright and Craig Hodges back.  There was even talk of them breaking the 70-win barrier and overtaking the 1972 Lakers’ 69-13 record as the best ever in the regular season.

The San Antonio Spurs were now in year 3 of the David Robinson/Larry Brown experiment.  They still had the same starters in forwards Terry Cummings and Sean Elliott and guards Rod Strickland and Willie Anderson.  They tried to add bench strength by acquiring big forward Antoine Carr from the Sacramento Kings.  They also signed veteran Detroit Piston Vinnie Johnson, in what turned out to be his last NBA season, and young forward Donald Royal.

But with the talent, things didn’t go well.  Rod Strickland held out for a better contract through the first 24 games of the season.  The Spurs went 13-11 in those games and had a 5-game losing streak.  Terry Cummings also missed some games through that stretch.

The Spurs started winning a little more consistently after Strickland returned and were 21-15 entering Chicago Stadium, which was good for 1.5 games behind Utah in the Midwest Division standings.

They started off well in the Madhouse on Madison as Michael Jordan had to go out early after getting hit with an elbow by his own teammate, Scottie Pippen.

Cummings scored 6 early points and the Spurs used an 8-0 run to take an 18-12 lead with 9 minutes gone by in the 1st quarter.  San Antonio maintained a 27-22 advantage at the end of the 1st quarter.

Chicago did start the 2nd quarter on an 8-1 run to take the lead as San Antonio missed their first 8 shots from the field.  But Phil Jackson, in an attempt to rest players over the course of a long season, sat down the starters for a stretch.

The Spurs regained their footing and Chicago was plagued by 10 first half turnovers.  San Antonio’s bench, led by Sidney Green’s 12 points, played a major role.  Strickland was also aggressive as a scorer and playmaker.  Strickland got his 8th assist of the 1st half when he found Robinson for a slam with 5.8 seconds left in the half to give the Spurs a 54-45 lead at the break.

Michael Jordan was held to 7 points in the 1st half but he must’ve had his “secret stuff” at halftime.

He came out immediately aggressive in the 3rd quarter at both ends.  MJ got some steals and got to the line for the first time all day.  He hit 4 free throws and found John Paxson with a behind-the-back pass for a wing jumper.  A Pippen feed to Horace Grant for a three-point play cut the lead to 56-54.  Grant had quietly kept the Bulls in the game with 10 1st half points.

Jordan then tied it with a lefty scoop on a drive down the lane and Larry Brown had to use a timeout with 9:13 remaining in the quarter.

The timeout helped initially as San Antonio was able to regain a 65-58 lead.  But the Bulls made their big run of the game after that.

MJ found Grant for a layup.  Paxson hit a three at the end of the shot clock.  Jordan and Grant each hit two free throws.  Then after a steal, Pippen found Jordan on a 2-on-1 break for a flying slam.  Brown had to use another timeout with 4:24 left and the Bulls leading 69-65.

Strickland would quell the run after the timeout with a jumper but then he got into a brouhaha with Pippen that almost escalated (with Scottie throwing punches that, luckily for him and perhaps Strickland, didn’t connect).  Double technicals were called but nobody was ejected (weren’t those the good ole days?)

Jordan hit a pull-up from the wing and later a stop-and-go drive down the lane.  Then Pippen got another steal off the Bulls trap.  He dribbled coast-to-coast and found Jordan for another slam.  Chicago now led 77-67 and MJ had 20 points in the 3rd quarter.

The Spurs were able to cut it to 79-73 going into the 4th quarter but the Bulls 19-2 run might have done them in.

The Bulls maintained their lead as Phil Jackson put Will Perdue out there against David Robinson.  Perdue kept grabbing rebounds and putting enough of a body on Robinson to slow him down at the offensive end.  Although, part of this may be due to Robinson not being as aggressive as he should have (a common theme in the Admiral’s career) and the Spurs not consistently going down low to Robinson.

San Antonio cut the lead to 88-82 with 7 minutes left but could not score over the next 2 minutes (neither could the Bulls).  Pippen finally hit a pull-up with 5 minutes left to break the drought.

The Spurs finally got going as Robinson hit a pull-up from the wing.  But each Spur basket was matched by Chicago as Paxson hit two jumpers.

A baseline jumper by Sean Elliott, who was playing through a dislocated finger, cut the lead to 94-90 with just over 2 minutes left.  But Pippen hit a fall-away jumper from deep on the baseline at the end of the shot clock.  Jordan then blocked a shot by Cummings and followed that up by finding Perdue with a no-look pass for a slam with 1:23 left.

That sequence finished the game and Perdue had 12 points and 14 rebounds while playing the entire 4th quarter against David Robinson.

The Spurs lost two days later against Boston to bring their record to 21-17.  On the morning of their next game two days later, Larry Brown left under bizarre circumstances.  Stories were different on whether Brown was fired or resigned (depending on who you ask) and there wasn’t a clear reason.  But, one way or another, Brown was gone and Bob Bass, the Spurs’ Vice President of Basketball Operations, was named interim coach for the rest of the season.

After this cloudy change, the Spurs got to host the Bulls 11 days after their first encounter with Chicago carrying a 13-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, Larry Brown wouldn’t be out of work for long.  On February 6, Brown was asked to take over a Los Angeles Clippers team that was a game and a half out of the playoffs (a place they haven’t been since they were the Buffalo Braves in 1976).

Brown led a Clippers team of Danny Manning, Ron Harper, Charles Smith, and Doc Rivers to a 23-12 finish and a 45-37 overall record, good for 7th place in the West.  The Clippers won an emotional game on May 3rd (highlighted at the top of the blog before any game action) to tie their series with the Utah Jazz.  But they were eliminated the next night.

San Antonio starters (points scored)

Sean Elliott (14) – Small Forward

Terry Cummings (17) – Power Forward

David Robinson (20) – Center

Rod Strickland (15) – Point Guard

Willie Anderson (2) – Shooting Guard

San Antonio bench (points scored)

Antoine Carr (2)

Vinnie Johnson (8)

Sidney Green (12)

Donald Royal (3)

Greg Sutton (3)

Paul Pressey (0)

San Antonio Coach: Larry Brown

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (17) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (19) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (0) – Center

John Paxson (12) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (31) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (2)

Stacey King (0)

Will Perdue (12)

Craig Hodges (5)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Scott Williams (2)

Bobby Hansen (2)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Larry-Brown

Larry Brown was fired by the Spurs 4 days after this game.  He would be hired by the Clippers 16 days later and led them to their first playoff appearance since 1976 *photo courtesy of ComC

January 19, 1992 – Chicago Bulls 87 @Detroit Pistons 85

Now on an 8-game winning streak, the Bulls got to go back to the Palace at Auburn Hills for the first time since conquering Detroit the previous season.

Boy had the tables turned.  A few years ago, the Pistons had been the measuring stick for the Bulls.  Now, even Piston players were admitting that Chicago was a measuring stick for a still good Detroit team.

The Pistons got off to a so-so (to say the least) start for the season.  On December 14, they were 10-14.  Then Detroit picked it up and won 12 of their next 14 heading into their matchup with the Bulls.

With a few exceptions, the same cast was back for 1992 but older.  Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars still ran the back-court and the Pistons winning ways picked up when they started to play better.  Bill Laimbeer was in the middle with Mark Aguirre, John Salley, and Dennis Rodman at forward.  Rodman was having an amazing year on the boards as he would average a career-high 18.7 rebounds per game in 1992 and kick off a 7-season stretch in which he averaged at least 14.9 rebounds per game.

The changes for Jack McCloskey, Chuck Daly, and the Pistons involved trading for veteran scorer and 1-on-1 player Orlando Woolridge.  They traded James Edwards to the Clippers on the same day they acquired Woolridge from Denver.  Then a month later in September, management waived Vinnie Johnson and traded for Darrell Walker.

Woolridge added scoring, especially when he got into the starting lineup after Daly experimented with Salley, William Bedford, and Aguirre at the strong forward spot.  But Woolridge couldn’t replace James Edwards’ low post presence and did not present the defense that the Pistons were used to.

Walker became the third guard in Vinnie Johnson’s place but didn’t present the scoring that Vinnie did, even if he was better defensively.

But the Pistons were still tops in the league defensively and showed it to the Bulls after the first 6 minutes.

In the first 6 minutes, though, Chicago was hot.  John Paxson hit three jumpers, Scottie Pippen hit two, and Michael Jordan and Horace Grant each hit from the outside.  The Bulls hit their first 7 shots and led 16-8 with 6:17 left.

Furthermore, Chuck Daly picked up a technical when Bill Cartwright and Rodman got into an elbow tussle under the basket and Daly felt something should have been called on Cartwright.

But then the Bulls went cold and missed their next 6 shots.  Meanwhile, Detroit got on the boards and either got out on the break as a result or got multiple shots at the basket.

An 8-0 run tied the game at 16 but that wasn’t Detroit’s biggest run of the quarter.  With the game tied at 20, Detroit ran off the final 11 points as Phil Jackson rested Jordan.

The Pistons out-rebounded Chicago 17-5 in the 1st quarter and led 31-20 after Dumars got a breakaway layup when Rodman picked up a steal in the final seconds.

Jordan came in to start the 2nd quarter and immediately got a three-point play against Walker.  B.J. Armstrong came in and hit three shots when Detroit left him open.  Chicago also grabbed 7 offensive rebounds in the first 6 minutes of the 2nd quarter and cut the lead to 36-33.

But Chicago could not overcome Detroit’s lead in the 2nd quarter despite 11 points from Jordan and 7 from Armstrong in the period and the Pistons picking up 2 more technical fouls.

Isiah Thomas and Jordan each picked up their 3rd foul just before the half.  Detroit led 45-44 at the break.

The Bulls finally took the lead early in the 3rd on a three-point play by Cartwright.  The teams then preceded to trade blows in the quarter.  Detroit grabbed a 64-58 lead when Isiah crossovered into the lane for a scoop shot.

But the Bulls finished the quarter on a 10-1 run as Isiah picked up his 4th foul and sat.  The Bulls led 68-65 entering the 4th.

The final quarter would be more of a defensive struggle than the first 3 quarters and Detroit’s defense hit first.  Chicago did not score for the first 6 minutes and change.

Meanwhile, Aguirre and Dumars led the Pistons on a 10-0 run that was putting the game away.  Detroit had a chance to grab a 77-68 lead when Dumars led a 4-on-1 fast break.  But Dumars tried to take it himself, got cut off by the lone man back (B.J. Armstrong), and missed a wild reverse shot.

The Bulls then went on the transition and Cliff Levingston was fouled reasonably hard by Dennis Rodman.  A flagrant was called on Rodman on the play.  While Dennis fouled Levingston hard, he was going for the ball and didn’t make a typical Bad Boy Piston foul on this particular play.

It was a flagrant foul you’d expect to see called in 2017 but not in 1992.  It was a bad call and would turn the momentum around.  Levingston hit the two free throws and then Pippen hit a baseline jumper to cut the lead to 75-72.

Detroit was able to hold Chicago off for a minute as Isiah nailed a three and Aguirre hit a fall-away at the end of the shot clock.  But the Bulls got their offense back going as Paxson nailed a three, Pippen spun in the lane for a three-point play, and Jordan hit a turnaround from the post to cut the Piston lead to 82-80.

Jordan then had a chance to tie it at the line with 1:57 left.  He made the first but missed the second (Chicago would give Detroit several chances because of missed free throws).  But Chicago controlled the rebound and eventually would take the lead when a doubled Jordan found Pippen in the lane for a jumper.

Jordan followed with a steal and drew Isiah’s 5th foul on a breakaway (another clean foul but this was actually called by today’s terms, “a common foul”).  Jordan made both free throws with 1:09 to go to put the Bulls up 85-82.

Aguirre missed an inside shot and Cartwright rebounded.  The Pistons had gone cold at the wrong time.  They also went cold on the boards as Pippen grabbed Jordan’s miss at the end of the shot clock.  Pippen gave it back to Jordan and Dumars had to foul MJ with 24.5 seconds left.

But Michael split the free throws and Isiah drove down the lane for a layup to cut Chicago’s lead to 86-84.  Jordan was fouled again with 17 seconds left.  Again, he split the free throws giving Detroit a chance to tie with a three-pointer.

Isiah ended up being the one open for the tying three but it hit the back of the rim.  Levingston rebounded and drew a foul with 6 seconds left.  But Cliff missed them both, which included an airball on the second free throw.  This gave Detroit a chance to take it out of bounds and set a play with no timeouts left.

Thomas dribbled it into the front court but was fouled by Paxson before he could get off a shot with 2.6 seconds left.  Isiah made the first free throw and was talking to Rodman (who was, again, having a wonderful rebounding season) about how he was going to miss the second free throw.

Thomas did miss it hard off the back rim but Chicago was able to back-tap it out to half-court as the buzzer sounded.

The Bulls had survived for their 9th win in a row and 70 wins was still a possibility.

Chicago’s win streak reached 13 games but they’d have to try and tie their season-long win streak on the first game of a west coast trip against a tough opponent with a new coach.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (17) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (2) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (6) – Center

John Paxson (15) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (34) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (7)

Stacey King (2)

Cliff Levingston (4)

Scott Williams (0)

Bobby Hansen (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Detroit starters (points scored)

Dennis Rodman (11) – Small Forward

Orlando Woolridge (18) – Power Forward

Bill Laimbeer (8) – Center

Isiah Thomas (16) – Point Guard

Joe Dumars (15) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

Mark Aguirre (14)

John Salley (2)

Darrell Walker (1)

Lance Blanks (0)

Charles Thomas (0)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

January 28, 1992 – Chicago Bulls 104 @San Antonio Spurs 109

Interim coach Bob Bass wanted the San Antonio Spurs to run more and be freer on offense than they were under Larry Brown.  So far, the Spurs were 2-1 under Bass but the aggressive approach showed early on.

Right off the tip, Terry Cummings took a quick runner and banked it in.  The Spurs led for the rest of the game from there.  David Robinson also proved why he was a star.

Robinson was in the top 6 in 5 statistical categories (not including points) and he showed off his versatility.  He started the blocking an underhand scoop from Michael Jordan.  Later, off a steal, Robinson went coast-to-coast and put the ball around Jordan (who was going for the steal) and slammed it down with a two-hand overhead.  And, yes, the Admiral also blocked an MJ dunk attempt.

The Spurs took a 16-4 lead as Phil Jackson had to use two timeouts.  San Antonio grabbed as much as a 14-point lead as Terry Cummings led the way with 10 points.

But the Bulls closed the quarter on an 8-2 run as MJ hit two shots and Scottie Pippen got a flying breakaway slam.  The Spurs led 31-23 going into the 2nd quarter.

The Spurs regained their 14-point lead as Robinson grabbed his 10th rebound in the first 15 minutes of the game.  A baseline drive and slam by Sean Elliott increased the Spurs lead to 43-25.

Robinson then went out for his first rest of the game and the Bulls started attacking the basket.  Jordan, along with B.J. Armstrong and Stacey King off the bench, got going and cut the lead to 45-38.

Robinson then came back in and threw down a reverse alley-oop slam on a feed from Willie Anderson.  The Bulls cut it to 50-46 with 1:27 left in the half but Cummings hit his 16th point on a pull-up jumper in the lane.

The Bulls had the last possession to try and cut it back to 4 points but Pippen missed a runner with a few seconds left.  Robinson grabbed his 11th rebound and fed it out to Antoine Carr.  Carr got to halfcourt and fired up a fling at the last possible tenth of a second.  The ball went in and the Spurs led 55-46 at the half.

In their first season matchup, the Spurs also had a 9-point halftime lead but were victimized by Chicago coming on in the 3rd quarter.  This time, there was no such thing as the Spurs got out on the break.

Rod Strickland got two quick assists and the Spurs led 61-47.  But Sean Elliott picked up his 4th foul and the Bulls started to get some shots to fall.  Jordan got a three-point play on an alley-oop layup and then John Paxson nailed a three to cut the lead to 67-61.

Later, Chicago went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 71-69.  Cummings then rebounded a Carr miss and slammed it home.  But another three-point play by Jordan not only cut the lead to 73-72 but drew the 4th foul on Robinson, all in the 3rd quarter.

But despite the Admiral going to the bench, the Spurs maintained a 78-74 lead after three as rookie Greg Sutton hit a big basket.

Robinson came back in early in the 4th and picked up his 5th foul soon after with the Spurs up by five.  But San Antonio maintained their lead with Cummings and Elliott getting big baskets.  Elliott’s highlight was a one-handed rebound-slam.

The Spurs held a 99-93 lead when Robinson came back in.  The Bulls started making their run at that time as Jordan scored and fed Horace Grant for layups.

The lead was down to 101-100 when the Spurs went down low to Robinson.  He was doubled and kicked out to Anderson.  Anderson swung the ball to Strickland at the elbow where Rod hit a big jumper with 2:30 left.

Jordan responded with a driving layup to cut it back to 103-102.  San Antonio used a timeout with 1:33 left.  The ball found Willie Anderson who was guarded by Jordan.  Anderson went to the foul line, faked, and hit a tough leaner with Jordan in his face.

Robinson then got his 8th block on a shot from Grant.  But the Bulls got the ball back after Cummings missed an ill-advised shot.  Paxson missed a tying three attempt but Pippen tipped it in with 30.4 seconds left to cut the lead to one.

Chicago pressed but the Spurs broke it like they had all game.  Elliott found Robinson at the foul line and David took it to the hole and hit a scoop shot while drawing a foul.  Robinson missed his chance to put the game away as he missed the free throw.  Chicago rebounded and called timeout with 20 seconds left.

The Bulls went for the quick two-pointer as Jordan found King inside.  But Cummings blocked his shot and Elliott retrieved the ball.  Pippen had to foul him with 11.8 seconds left and Sean made two free throws to put the game away.

The Spurs had snapped the Bulls 13-game winning streak and had their best win of the year.

For the Bulls, this kicked off a 6-game road trip that ended any talks of a 70-win season before the All-Star break.  The Bulls lost two nights later in Houston.  Then, less than a week later, in Utah.  The Bulls lost in triple overtime in the last 0.5 seconds.  Jordan was called for a foul on Jeff Malone, vehemently argued the call and, in the process, bumped referee Tommie Wood.  Jordan was ejected for the foul language and then suspended for the next game in Phoenix.  The Bulls lost that one too and were 2-4 on the trip.  They were 39-9 at the break.

The Spurs rolled right along through the All-Star break despite losing Willie Anderson in February with a stress fracture.  Through March 23, they were 42-26 when Robinson missed a few games.  It was then announced that Robinson had to have surgery on his thumb to avoid permanent damage.

He would be out for 6 weeks.  The Spurs season didn’t last that long.  Although they still finished 5th in the West without Robinson and Anderson, they were swept by Phoenix in the 1st round.

Then over the summer, Terry Cummings tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game.  He would never average double-figures for the rest of his career.  The talented early 90’s Spurs would be a changing team over the next few seasons.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (21) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (6) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (3) – Center

John Paxson (9) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (39) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (9)

Stacey King (11)

Will Perdue (4)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Scott Williams (2)

Bobby Hansen (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

San Antonio starters (points scored)

Sean Elliott (18) – Small Forward

Terry Cummings (30) – Power Forward

David Robinson (21) – Center

Rod Strickland (8) – Point Guard

Willie Anderson (8) – Shooting Guard

San Antonio bench (points scored)

Antoine Carr (8)

Vinnie Johnson (4)

Sidney Green (7)

Greg Sutton (5)

San Antonio Coach: Bob Bass

February 9, 1992 – NBA All-Star Game @ Orlando: West 153, East 113

In sports, there are those moments that stand the test of time and, as they say, cannot possibly be scripted.

It was a nice story that the NBA allowed Magic Johnson to play in this All-Star Game after he shocked the world with his announcement 3 months earlier.  But Magic had not played a game in that time.  To think he could score 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting and get 9 assists in the 2nd half to be the unquestionable MVP seems a little bit beyond the imagination.

NBC announcer Dick Enberg mentioned after the game that even if Magic had scored 5 points, he’d still be the MVP.  This wouldn’t have seemed right, even for Magic.  But that would be the more realistic expectation.  But like he had his entire career (and is still doing), Magic went above and beyond.  He put on a show, he flashed his famous smile, and had one feeling good afterwards with his appearance.

It started after the introduction of the starting lineups.  First of all, the West was introduced after the East despite the game being in Orlando (usually the home team is announced last) and Magic was the last player introduced from the West lineup.  The introduction was followed by a prolonged standing ovation and every member of the East team coming across court to give Magic a hug.  That was a great moment all in itself.

Then the game started, and with Magic and Isiah Thomas leading the way by pushing the ball, both teams got off to a remarkable start and an entertaining 1st quarter ensued.

Isiah drove right at Magic for a layup and then Magic came right back at him and went coast-to-coast for his first field goal to put the West up 8-4.  Michael Jordan came right back with an MJ specialty.  He drove baseline, hung in the air, and threw in a double-pump reverse layup.

The action continued like that as both teams pushed the ball off of steals and made baskets by the other team and highlights ensued.  Scottie Pippen drove down the lane for a flying slam over David Robinson.  Later, Pippen threw an alley-oop inbounds pass to Jordan for a slam.

The East got the early lead before Magic threw in a hook shot from the baseline.  Jordan came back with a drive down the lane in which he hung in the air again and got the ball around Robinson and in the basket with his left hand.  Magic came right back with a coast-to-coast drive for his 8th point.  Robinson followed with a steal and Chris Mullin fed Karl Malone on a 3-on-2 break for a layup and a 19-18 West lead.

The game would be tied at 23 after Pippen rebound-slammed a miss by Isiah.  At this point, both teams were shooting at above 70% from the field.

But then the West made their 1st of 2 monster runs to take a big lead and put the competitive aspect of this game out of the way.  Clyde Drexler led the way on this first run as he nailed a three, took the ball from half-court and finished with a flying slam, nailed another three, and got a layup off a feed from Tim Hardaway.  Drexler had 10 points on the West’s 14-0 run.  This led to the West’s 44-31 advantage after the 1st quarter.

Things would not slow down in the 2nd quarter.  Magic scored 6 more points to bring his total to 16.  This included a long hook shot over Dennis Rodman, one of the league’s best defenders.  Magic finished 6-for-7 from the field in the 1st half but had no assists.

The East stayed within striking distance and cut the lead to 62-53 when Michael Adams made a pull-up jumper from the elbow.  But then the West had their 2nd monster run.

Hakeem Olajuwon threw down a reverse slam after a baseline spin from the post.  James Worthy hit a turnaround in the lane.  Jeff Hornacek found a trailing Dikembe Mutombo for a big slam on the break.  Worthy got a steal and slam.  John Stockton nailed a three.  Jeff Hornacek made a jumper off an inbounds pass.  Stockton drove by Jordan for a layup and then came up with a steal and fed future teammate Hornacek for a layup.

When all was said and done, the West had gone on a 17-0 run and led 79-53.  It was 79-55 at the half.

It would not be a question who would win for the 2nd half but the action was still entertaining.  Clyde Drexler showed off his open-court athleticism many times in the 3rd quarter and score 12 points to bring his game total to 22.  Magic finally got his 1st assist when he found Robinson with a touch-pass on a 4-on-1 break to put the West up 92-59.

With that, Magic did not score in the 3rd but started finding several people for shots as the West continued to shoot over 60% and increased their lead.  The credit to their spirited play again went to Magic, courtesy of coach Don Nelson.  Nellie had said in a halftime interview that Magic’s contagious spirit up-lifted the West and increased their energy for the game.

The West led 115-83 after 3 quarters.

The 4th quarter looked more of the same as Magic found people for shots and the West continued to shoot well.  Their final field goal percentage was at 65.3%.  It was a great show so far but Magic Johnson pulled out an encore and a finish for the ages.

Magic stood open at the wing behind the three-point line after Mutombo kicked it out to him.  Magic figured he’ll just launch a three and see what happens.  The trey went down and it was just the beginning.

Adams answered with a three for the East.  But Magic came right back down, pulled up behind the three-point line, up-faked Isiah, and nailed another to get the crowd going.

Then in the final two minutes, Isiah Thomas decided he was going to isolate and go 1-on-1 against Magic.  Isiah dribbled out the shot clock while Magic played sound defense and the crowd rose to their feet.  Thomas threw an airball and Dan Majerle got a transition slam to make the score 150-113.

Then MJ, Michael Jordan, decided he was going to isolate and go 1-on-1 against Magic Johnson as the crowd rose to their feet.  Magic stayed in front of Michael and forced a high-arcing miss and the West rebounded with under 30 seconds left.

They went to Magic one last time and he isolated and backed down Isiah Thomas behind the three-point line.  Magic backed him down and then stepped back for a long three that went down.  It was an amazing shot and an amazing moment.  There was 14.5 seconds remaining and the East decided they were just going to stop the game because it had to end on that shot.

Then came the MVP presentation in which David Stern called Magic, “a most courageous person.”  Magic then thanked everyone for voting for him and thanked the players for decided it was OK for him to play despite his condition, a sentiment that wouldn’t continue for everyone.

But Magic would be back for the Olympics as the Dream Team would take on the field in Barcelona.  He would be joined by his longtime rival Larry Bird, who wasn’t able to play in this All-Star Game.  Bird would end up having one more memorable moment when Boston took on Portland on March 15 later in this blog.

For now, it was Magic Johnson’s moment.  A full recap is here.

West starters (teams) and point totals

Chris Mullin (Golden State Warriors) 13 – Small Forward

Karl Malone (Utah Jazz) 11 – Power Forward

David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) 19 – Center

Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers) 25 – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (Portland Blazers) 22 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point totals

Tim Hardaway (Golden State Warriors) 14

Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) 7

Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix Suns) 11

Otis Thorpe (Houston Rockets) 2

James Worthy (Los Angeles Lakers) 9

John Stockton (Utah Jazz) 12

Dan Majerle (Phoenix Suns) 4

Dikembe Mutombo (Denver Nuggets) 4

West Coach: Don Nelson (Golden State Warriors)

East starters (teams) and point totals

Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls) 14 – Small Forward

Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers) 12 – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks) 10 – Center

Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons) 15 – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls) 18 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals

Mark Price (Cleveland Cavaliers) 6

Brad Daugherty (Cleveland Cavaliers) 6

Joe Dumars (Detroit Pistons) 4

Dennis Rodman (Detroit Pistons) 4

Reggie Lewis (Boston Celtics) 7

Kevin Willis (Atlanta Hawks) 8

Michael Adams (Washington Bullets) 9

East Coach: Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls)

magic_allstar_prog

Courtesy of nba.com

ORLANDO- FEBRUARY 9: Magic Johnson #32 of the Western Conference All-Stars holds the MVP trophy following the 1992 NBA All Star Game on February 9, 1992 at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1987 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

ORLANDO- FEBRUARY 9: Magic Johnson #32 of the Western Conference All-Stars holds the MVP trophy following the 1992 NBA All Star Game on February 9, 1992 at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1987 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

February 15, 1992 – New York Knicks 98 @Chicago Bulls 99

The Bulls rebounded after the All-Star break with two lobsided wins.  This included a 106-85 drubbing of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden two days before they met in Chicago.  The Knicks had played at Indiana the night before and had little left for their first matchup with the Bulls.  They had a lot more energy for their second matchup.

The Knicks still had a 3.5 game lead over Boston for the Atlantic Division title and were 0.5 game behind Cleveland for the 2nd best record in the East behind Chicago.  The Bulls were 41-9 and 9 games ahead of the 31-17 Knicks in the standings.

The Bulls got off to a good start in this game as they trapped Mark Jackson in the backcourt the first time New York touched the ball.  Horace Grant got a steal from Jackson and a slam to put Chicago up 4-0.

The Bulls eventually gained a 10-2 lead as Michael Jordan picked up 2 fouls on Gerald Wilkins and hit 4-4 on free throws.  But Wilkins stayed in the game and was a major contributor in the 1st quarter.  He had 8 points (including two outside jumpers, his weakness) in the next 5 minutes as New York came back to tie it at 18.

Mark Jackson would then score New York’s next 7 points as the Knicks took a 25-24 lead.  The Knicks were playing with confidence on offense, something they wouldn’t always do this season, against the Bulls vaunted defense.

New York increased its lead to 32-28 near the end of the 1st quarter when Patrick Ewing recovered a blocked shot and slammed one down.  But Jordan finished the period with a fall-away jumper from the baseline that cut the lead to 32-30 at quarter’s end and gave MJ 12 points.

The Knicks continued to play with confidence, but the Bulls got a spark off the bench as Craig Hodges hit two three-pointers to give Chicago the lead.  But other than that spark, Jordan didn’t get much help from his teammates in the 1st half.  MJ had 22 in the 1st half while nobody else had more than 6.

Meanwhile, the Knicks went down low to Patrick Ewing and he drew the 3rd fouls on Bill Cartwright and his backup, Will Perdue.  Ewing had 13 points in the 2nd quarter and looked as aggressive as he’d ever looked against the Bulls, although the Knicks would have problems in a lot of games of just not going inside to Ewing enough.

Ewing led New York with 21 points in the 1st half and the game was tied at 57 at the half.  Although, New York probably should have held the lead.  A young John Starks missed two free throws with New York up 57-55 in the last minute.  MJ later got a steal off the trap and slammed one down to tie the game.

For the 3rd quarter, Pat Riley got a spark from his corner-men as Xavier McDaniel scored 8 points and Gerald Wilkins hit two three-pointers.  This output put New York up 73-67 with 6:42 left, and the only reason the Bulls were that close was that Scottie Pippen got going with a rebound-slam and then a pull-up jumper over Anthony Mason.

Pippen would end up with a total of 11 points in the 3rd quarter to bring Chicago back into the game.  But McDaniel’s 10th point of the 3rd on a baseline jumper put New York up 81-80 heading into the 4th quarter.

New York grabbed another quick lead at 89-85 after Wilkins and Starks nailed three-pointers.  But Chicago surged back into it as their role players sparked them.  Horace Grant hit a short jumper and later rebound-slammed a Pippen miss to bring his point total to 17.  Bill Cartwright rebound-slammed a miss by Jordan to bring his point total to 14.  Craig Hodges also hit two more jumpers to bring his point total to 10.

When all was said and done, the Bulls had grabbed a 93-91 lead and Riley used a timeout with 5:53 left.

A baseline spin and layup by Anthony Mason tied the game.  Pippen then hit a turnaround jumper from the top over Ewing, who had been held to 6 points in the 2nd half so far.  But Ewing found Mason off a double team to tie the game again.

Jordan responded with a fall-away from the foul line for only his 5th point in the 2nd half, but the Bulls led 97-95 with around 3 minutes to go.  Mark Jackson then found Ewing with a behind-the-back pass on a pick-and-roll for a slam to tie the game at 97.

Jordan drew a foul from Wilkins with 1:57 left and hit two free throws.  Both teams then exchanged turnovers and New York called a timeout with 1:16 left.  After Ewing grabbed an offensive rebound, the Knicks went to him in the post against Cartwright.

Ewing made his move (which included a blatant traveling violation that wasn’t called, not the only time in Ewing’s career that that happened for better or worse) and a foul was called on Cartwright with 43.7 seconds left.  Justice may have been served as Ewing missed the first free throw.  He did made the second the cut the Bulls lead to 99-98.

Chicago ran down the shot clock before Pippen saw an opening and drove.  Ewing blocked his shot on a play that was very close to goaltending (if not actually goaltending).  B.J. Armstrong recovered the ball but had to throw up a prayer as the shot clock was running out.  He missed and Ewing rebounded.  New York used a timeout with 20.8 seconds left.

However, in a big moment for the Knicks, they could not find a way to get Ewing the ball down low.  McDaniel was finally forced to drive baseline against Pippen.  He pulled up for a short jumper after an up-fake and Pippen blocked the shot out of bounds with 3 seconds left.  New York used their last timeout.

Riley set a play that got the Knicks a great shot.  Gerald Wilkins broke open at the baseline where he had been hitting shots all day.  But this time his attempt hit the rim, backboard, and bounced away and the Bulls survived.

Chicago would get a similar type of game two nights later against another Eastern Conference opponent.  The Cleveland Cavaliers came to the Windy City with a 32-16 record and something to prove to the Bulls.

New York won 4 of their next 8 games before they put together a 4-game winning streak at the beginning of March.  But then a two-point home loss to the Lakers was followed by a matchup against their suddenly improved Metropolitan rivals who had drubbed them 13 days earlier.

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (20) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (2) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (30) – Center

Mark Jackson (11) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (17) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (8)

Anthony Mason (10)

Greg Anthony (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (19) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (17) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (14) – Center

John Paxson (2) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (29) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (4)

Craig Hodges (10)

Will Perdue (2)

Scott Williams (2)

Stacey King (0)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

February 17, 1992 – Cleveland Cavaliers 113 @Chicago Bulls 112

The 1992 Chicago Bulls tour continued (don’t worry, the next 3 games and 4 of the next 5 on this blog do not feature the Bulls) with a matchup against their old division rivals from Cleveland.

Ever since Michael Jordan had knocked the 57-25 Cavaliers out of the playoffs with his game-winner in 1989, Cleveland hadn’t been much of a rival to Chicago.  The Bulls had won the last 12 matchups, including two earlier this season in which one was questioning whether the Cavs were a serious threat to the Bulls despite an improved record.

Cleveland came in at 32-16, 2nd best in the East behind the 42-9 Bulls.  This came at the heels of a 33-49 season in 1991 for Cleveland.  The improved record could almost unequivocally be due to the return of Mark Price.

Price tore his ACL early in the 1991 season and was lost after 16 games.  Despite a still-talented roster that included All-Star Brad Daugherty, and veterans Larry Nance, Craig Ehlo, and John “Hot Rod” Williams and a great coach in Lenny Wilkens, the Cavs could not compete without their heart and soul.  Price was the guy who broke down the defense (mainly by splitting the defenders when Cleveland often ran a pick-and-roll) and either scored himself or gave the ball to Daugherty, Nance, or whoever.

Price would be back at near-full strength for 1992 and made it to the All-Star Game.  But Cleveland was cutting down his minutes as he recovered and, unlike 1991, they had good backups at the point.  Terrell Brandon was drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 1991 draft.  John Battle was then signed as a free agent after 6 seasons in Atlanta.

Brandon and Battle would be the backup point guards while Price averaged just under 30 minutes per game (5th on the team).  The other roles would still be the same from 2-3 years ago, minus Ron Harper.  Daugherty and Nance were the power players inside with Williams coming off the bench.  Ehlo was the two-gaurd with Steve Kerr, who was out for this game, backing him up.

The small forward position would still be a mystery.  Winston Bennett was getting another shot after Cleveland let Chucky Brown go in December.  But Bennett would average under 4 points per game and Cleveland would release him in March after re-signing former Cavalier Mike Sanders, who had spent the last two seasons in Indiana before getting waived in November by the Pacers.

Bennett would get two buckets early in this game as the beneficiary of good passes.  Cleveland made their first 4 shots and stayed with Chicago through the first 6 minutes.

A 6-0 Bulls ran that was kicked off with Jordan going down the lane for a lefty layup and culminated with a fast break in which Jordan found Scottie Pippen, who found Horace Grant for a slam, put Chicago up 21-13.  But Craig Ehlo got open for two jumpers, including a three, to cut into the lead.

Price would score the Cavs last 4 points of the quarter, including a runner in the lane after splitting the defense in the last few seconds, to cut the Bulls lead to 27-25 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The 2nd quarter would be a high-scoring good-shooting affair, but it would be trending against the Bulls in two ways.  Chicago’s offense was Jordan and Pippen hitting shots without the others getting involved.  Chicago’s defense left the lane open for some good shots for Cleveland.  At one point in the 1st half, the Cavaliers’ field goal percentage was at 74%.

Ehlo led the way with 12 points, Daugherty had 11, Price 9 and Nance 7 (with contributions from the bench of Hot Rod, Battle, and Brandon mixed in) as Cleveland took a 59-51 lead with under 2 minutes remaining in the half.

Then the Bulls defense woke up and forced several turnovers and rushed shots.  After Pippen made a jumper, he blocked a jump shot by Battle and took it coast-to-coast uncontested for a slam.  Jordan then rebounded a miss and pushed it to Scott Williams for a breakaway.  This cut the lead to 59-58.

Jordan then completed the 9-0 run with a lefty layup for his 22nd point and a 60-59 halftime lead for the Bulls.  Pippen was right behind him with 18 points.

But the late run didn’t kill Cleveland’s vibe as they continued their balanced attack and hot shooting early in the 2nd half.  Price, Daugherty, and Nance were the main cogs.  Chicago stayed in it as John Paxson’s hot shooting joined the Jordan/Pippen attack.  But both Pippen and Grant picked up their 4th fouls in the 3rd quarter.

Jordan rose to the occasion late in the 3rd as he scored 14 points over the last 6 1/2 minutes and drew the 4th foul on Nance.  But the Cavs stayed within 90-88 heading into the 4th quarter as Hot Rod Williams joined the attack with 6 points late in the 3rd.  Price ended up scoring 11 points in the quarter.

But Jordan’s attack continued early in the 4th as it finally looked like Chicago was going to pull away.  MJ scored 6 points and then, after Terrell Brandon missed a breakaway layup, Pippen found B.J. Armstrong for a baseline jumper to put the Bulls up 99-92.

But Cleveland got back into it over the next 3 minutes.  Daugherty hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline.  Price fed Hot Rod for a slam and then connected on a pull-up three from the top to cut the Bulls lead to 101-99 with 5:16 left.

Hot Rod later tied it at 103 with two free throws after Pippen picked up his 5th foul.  Paxson hit a wing jumper for his 6th field goal of the 2nd half in 6 attempts but a rebound-slam by Daugherty tied it again.

Jordan’s finger roll gave Chicago a 108-105 lead and forced Lenny Wilkens to use a timeout with 2:20 left.  Jordan now had 44.  But Cleveland kept the pressure on again and cut it to 110-109 before Price stole a Pippen pass.

Ehlo then drove by Jordan at the left wing and hit on a scoop shot to give the Cavaliers a 111-110 advantage.  The Bulls tried to get the basket right back but Grant over-led Jordan with his inbounds pass to mid-court and the turnover gave Cleveland the ball with 1:04 left.

The Cavs ran down the shot clock and Price missed a jumper.  On the rebound scramble, Bill Cartwright came over the back of Ehlo and was called for a foul.  Ehlo made both free throws with 44.5 seconds left to make it 113-110 Cleveland.

Chicago came right back as Jordan nailed a step-back jumper from the baseline with 34.5 seconds left.  Cleveland again ran down the shot clock but Grant came up with a steal as the clock ran out and Chicago used a timeout with 6.2 seconds left.

With the situation being the same as 1989 with 3 more seconds on the clock this time, a Cavs fan probably couldn’t help but think back to Black Sunday, a day that May 7, 1989 is sometimes referred to in Cleveland.

But this time, Craig Ehlo was able to deny Michael Jordan the ball despite several screens.  With Pippen unable to find Jordan, he had to take it himself and missed a running jumper from the elbow at the buzzer.

Cleveland now had its first win against Chicago since two days before Black Sunday and its biggest win in a resurgence 1992 season.  The Cavs would end up finishing at 57-25, good for 3rd place since they finished 10 games behind the Bulls in the division.  They would take on a more resurgent New Jersey Nets team in the 1st round of the playoffs with a chance for their first playoff series victory since 1976.

The Bulls would go 13-2 over the next month (with losses being by two points at Detroit and at home against Indiana).  They would get a chance to extend an 8-game winning streak against a struggling opponent.  But they’d end up needing a special MJ performance to do so.

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Winston Bennett (4) – Small Forward

Larry Nance (15) – Power Forward

Brad Daugherty (25) – Center

Mark Price (23) – Point Guard

Craig Ehlo (16) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Hot Rod Williams (16)

John Battle (10)

Terrell Brandon (4)

Danny Ferry (0)

Cleveland Coach: Lenny Wilkens

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (24) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (8) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (4) – Center

John Paxson (13) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (46) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (6)

Scott Williams (6)

Craig Hodges (4)

Cliff Levingston (1)

Will Perdue (0)

Stacey King (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

March 4, 1992 – Indiana Pacers 107 @Detroit Pistons 110 (OT)

The Detroit Pistons went into the All-Star break at 28-20, but stumbled to a 6-5 start to the 2nd half of the season.  Chuck Daly eventually replaced Bill Laimbeer in the starting lineup with John Salley, and it provided the Pistons with much more athleticism.

But one of the constants was that Dennis Rodman kept rebounding.  All culminated when Rodman grabbed (or tipped) a career-high of 34 rebounds in this ball game against the Indiana Pacers.

While Detroit was holding onto the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, the Indiana Pacers were 27-33 and a game out of the 8th spot.

After giving a heck of a challenge to Boston in the 1991 1st round, Indiana not only stumbled but face-planted out of the gate.  At one point, the Pacers were 15-28.

Then Bob Hill made a move that wasn’t flashy and didn’t look like it would amount to much, but it proved to turn the season around.  Hill put Greg Dreiling back into the starting lineup in place of young, emerging Rik Smits.

In 1991, Hill had put Dreiling in the starting lineup when the team was 15-24.  They finished with a 41-41 record with Dreiling only missing one start.

But Smits was back in the lineup to start the 1992 season, which meant the offensive minded center was fighting with Reggie Miller, Chuck Person and Michael Williams for shots.  All the while, Indiana sacrificed its defense and routinely gave up over 100 points per game.

But with Dreiling and LaSalle Thompson in the lineup along with Miller, Person and Williams, the Pacers had some strong interior defense with enough scoring to go around.  Smits would anchor the second unit with Detlef Schrempf, Vern Fleming, and rookie Dale Davis.

Schrempf followed his 1991 6th man of the year award with the best season of his 7-year career (and another 6th man of the year award).  Schrempf scored in double figures in 73 of the 80 games he played (despite only starting 4 games).  All but 1 of those games he didn’t score in double figures came before January, and none of those games happened after the Pacers turned their season around.

Schrempf was 3rd on the team in scoring (behind Miller and Person) and 1st in rebounding, averaging 9.6 rebounds per game.  He would haveone of his best games of the year against Detroit on this day.

Indiana was 12-5 since making the lineup change and had just had their best win of the year the previous night when they beat Chicago at Chicago Stadium.  They did this despite Smits being out with tendinitis in his knee.  Smits would sit out for the Detroit game as well.

The Pacers got off to an early lead at the Palace with Michael Williams scoring 4 points and handing out 3 assists to put Indiana up 14-8 with 6:23 left.  But Rodman helped Detroit regain a lead as he grabbed 10 rebounds in the quarter.

The Pistons led 27-23 and would go up by as much as 6 in the last 3 minutes.  But Indiana got back into it with Scrempf leading the way.

Detlef had 8 straight Pacer points to bring them back to a 27-all tie.  Detroit would get a spark from their bench as well.  Darrell Walker made an impact after Joe Dumars went out briefly with an injured knee.  Mark Aguirre hit the offensive boards for two putbacks as Detroit regained a 6-point lead.

Walker would score 6 points and had a big steal in the back court and feed to Orlando Woolridge for a slam to put the Pistons up 47-41.  Woolridge followed with a turnaround jumper in the lane to give Detroit an 8-point lead late in the half and give Woolridge 12 points.

But the Pacers got some momentum in the final 5 seconds.  Schrempf hit a running jumper in the lane for his 14th point of the half.  Then Dale Davis stole the inbounds pass and drew a foul with 1.4 seconds left.  Despite shooting 57% from the line as a rookie, Davis made these two to cut the lead to 49-45 at the break.

The momentum continued as Indiana tied it at 56 early on in the 3rd.  Isiah Thomas got going with 8 points to keep Detroit ahead over the next 6 minutes.  But the Pacers finally grabbed a 69-68 lead.

Then Person made a long three at the end of the shot clock and Michael Williams followed with a runner in transition.  This gave Indiana a 74-68 lead late in the 3rd.  But Joe Dumars, playing through his knee injury but struggling, made a big three to cut the lead to 74-71 heading into the 4th quarter.  Rodman had 20 rebounds to this point.

Detroit regained the lead early in the 4th and increased it to 81-78 with 7:47 left after Rodman tipped in a Woolridge miss and Isiah got his 21st point on a goaltending call against Dale Davis.

The Pistons increased their lead after the Indiana timeout as Rodman kept grabbing rebounds.  He would have 28 at this point, including 14 on the offensive glass.  Detroit led 90-82 after Salley hit two free throws following a BS flagrant foul call on Davis.  But Salley missed a slam with a chance to increase that lead.  Davis followed with two buckets to cut the lead in half.

Detroit hit a dry spell and Indiana kept working a two-man game with Michael Williams and Chuck Person (at the time, Reggie Miller wasn’t quite Reggie Miller yet.  He only took 6 shots in the whole game and wasn’t in the offense down the stretch, for the most part).

Williams and Person scored 8 straight points to give Indiana a 94-92 lead with 1:05 to go.  They would then force a turnover as Isiah stepped out of bounds on a baseline drive.

Indiana tried its two-man game again, but Detroit adjusted by leaving Reggie Miller open for a three.  Again, Reggie wasn’t quite Reggie yet and Miller missed the trey that would’ve put the game away with 31.6 seconds left.  Rodman rebounded and Detroit went to the offense without using a timeout.

Dumars attacked the defensively weak Michael Williams and drew a foul with 18.6 seconds left.  Dumars, at this point, had 6 points and was 2-for-12 from the field.  But Joe Cool made the two free throws to tie the game.

Indiana had to use a second timeout after Schrempf was trapped near mid-court with 10.4 seconds left.  Person then missed a good shot from the wing.  Rodman rebounded at the buzzer and the game was headed into overtime.

An interesting tidbit for some of Rodman’s rebounds was that he had a lot of offensive tips at the basket that missed.  Some still counted as rebounds (controlled tips, as they say.. whatever that means) and may have inflated the numbers a bit.

Dumars hit two quick jumpers to start overtime off feeds from Isiah (both would play the entire 2nd half as Darrell Walker, despite a good 1st half, sat.. proving he wasn’t quite Vinnie Johnson as Detroit’s 3rd guard) to give Detroit the lead.

Salley tipped in a miss after Rodman had a tip (which counted as a rebound) and Isiah hit two free throws to put Detroit up 102-96.  But Rodman was called for a flagrant foul against Williams and then committed his 5th against Person.  The lead only dropped to 102-99 despite the two fouls.

Rodman then grabbed his 33rd rebound (and 17th on the offensive board) with 2:10 left and drew a foul.  Dennis split the free throws to give Detroit a 4-point lead.

Williams hit a pull-up off a screen from Person as Indiana went back to its two-man game.  On the next Detroit possession, Rodman had another tip at the basket which counted as his 34th rebound, breaking a Piston single-game record set by Bob Lanier, who had 33 in a game.  Rodman would get an ovation from the crowd during the next stoppage of play.

But Detroit failed to score as Schrempf blocked a Dumars attempt and knocked the ball out of bounds off of Dumars with 59.4 seconds left.  Williams then found Schrempf on a pick-and-pop for a jumper from the top that tied the game.

But Isiah made his biggest play of the game as he drove down the lane, got in the air, created contact with Dale Davis, went away from Davis after the contact, turned his body, got off a reverse shot, banked it in and drew Davis’ 6th foul.

The three-point play gave Detroit a three-point lead, which would be held at 108-105 when Indiana used its last timeout with 14.7 seconds left.

Person went 1-on-1 for a three and drew a foul from Woolridge while attempting a three.  The bomb almost went in, which would’ve made a bigger difference.  At the time, the NBA had not yet adopted the player shooting three free throws if they got fouled while shooting a three.

So Person made the first and missed the second intentionally but Dumars rebounded and Detroit got a timeout with 4.4 seconds left.  The game appeared over after Laimbeer, who had lost his starting job 2 weeks previously, made two free throws with 3.3 seconds left to give Detroit a 110-106 lead.

But Isiah committed a dumb foul away from the ball as he tried to deny Michael Williams from getting it.  Because the foul was away from the ball, Indiana got one free throw and then the ball out of bounds.

Williams made the free throw, but Indiana’s long inbounds pass intended for Person sailed out of bounds and Detroit survived.

The Pistons played their next 5 games on the road and went 5-0 to increase their winning streak to 7 games.  Detroit then played 6 of their next 9 games at home and went 2-7 during that stretch and dropped back to 5th in the East.

Detroit stayed at the #5 spot and finished the season at 48-34.  It looked for a long stretch that they’d play their old rivals, the Boston Celtics, in the 1st round.  But things changed dramatically in the Atlantic Division over the last few weeks of the season, which’ll be covered later.

Indiana recovered to finish at 40-42, but lost a key home game against Cleveland in their final game of the season.  This allowed New Jersey to pass the Pacers for the 6th spot in the East.  With that, the Pacers, instead of Detroit, would play Boston in the 1st round for the 2nd straight season.  This year wouldn’t be as dramatic as the Celtics swept Indiana.

The Pacers would then make a big statement before the 1993 season as they traded Chuck Person and Michael Williams to Minnesota for Pooh Richardson and Sam Mitchell.  This would put Smits and Schrempf in the starting lineup and give Miller the most shots in the Indiana offense.

It worked for a career-high for Reggie early in the 1993 season (which will be covered) but it didn’t improve Indiana’s overall record, which forced some more “big statement” trades.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Chuck Person (17) – Small Forward

LaSalle Thompson (4) – Power Forward

Greg Dreiling (7) – Center

Michael Williams (28) – Point Guard

Reggie Miller (6) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

Detlef Schrempf (26)

Dale Davis (12)

Vern Fleming (2)

George McCloud (5)

Randy Wittman (0)

Indiana Coach: Bob Hill

Detroit starters (points scored)

Dennis Rodman (10) – Small Forward

Orlando Woolridge (20) – Power Forward

John Salley (15) – Center

Isiah Thomas (31) – Point Guard

Joe Dumars (14) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

Mark Aguirre (10)

Bill Laimbeer (2)

Darrell Walker (6)

Brad Sellers (2)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

rodman-92

Dennis Rodman grabbed a career-high 34 rebounds (including 18 offensive) against Indiana on March 4, 1992 *photo courtesy of Pinterest

March 14, 1992 – New Jersey Nets 96 @New York Knicks 94 (OT)

One had to go back to March 13, 1987 to see the last time that the New Jersey Nets won a game at Madison Square Garden.  Orlando Woolridge and Buck Williams each had at least 30 points in that game for the Nets while Patrick Ewing led New York with 31.

Both Metropolitan teams finished at 24-58 that season, but New York would improve to a perennial playoff team once they made moves like drafting Mark Jackson and acquiring Charles Oakley in a trade.  Only Ewing and Gerald Wilkins were left from the ’87 Knicks team while the Nets had nobody left.

They suffered through a 19-63 season in 1988 before drafting forward Chris Morris from Auburn with the 4th overall pick.  After Woolridge signed as a free agent with the Lakers, Morris was the 2nd leading scorer on a 1989 team, coached by former Knick Willis Reed, that went 26-56 and didn’t have anyone average over 16 points per game.

The Nets then traded Buck Williams to Portland for Sam Bowie, drafted Oklahoma’s point guard Mookie Blaylock with the 12th overall pick, and brought on veteran Bill Fitch as coach.

New Jersey regressed to 17-65 in 1990 with 1987 1st round flameout Dennis Hopson leading the way at 15.8 points per game.  They acquired center Chris Dudley from Cleveland for insurance in case Bowie was beset by injuries, although Bowie would have 4 healthy seasons with the Nets.

New Jersey then won the lottery and got the 1st pick in the draft.  They selected Syracuse’s Derrick Coleman with that pick and, later in the 1st round, took UConn’s Tate George.

They improved back to 26-56 in 1991 but acquired Drazen Petrovic and Terry Mills in a three-team mid-season trade.  The team was starting to come together a bit as Coleman, Blaylock, Morris, Bowie and Petrovic all averaged double figures (with all but Petrovic starting) although the record didn’t show it.  Coleman would win rookie of the year.

Then with the #2 pick in 1991, the Nets drafted Georgia Tech phenom guard Kenny Anderson.  Anderson would get a little lesson in humility under Fitch as he averaged only 17 minutes per game as a rookie and would be a DNP-CD (did not play – coach’s decision) in this ballgame.

Although the lineup was seemingly in place, the Nets started out the 1992 season at 2-11.  From there, they always seemed to be playing catch-up.  They improved to 19-21 at one point and then lost 8 games in a row.

This also showed in their first 3 meetings of the season with the Knicks.  They lost two close games at Madison Square Garden and then got blown out in New Jersey.

But in their latest meeting, the Nets “embarrased” the Knicks 90-75 in New Jersey that left some bad taste that almost escalated in this game.  That win capped a stretch in which New Jersey had won 8 out of 10 ballgames.  They followed by losing 4 straight on the road before completing a comeback victory against the Celtics in Hartford, Connecticut on the previous night.

Now New Jersey stood at 28-35 and were a game out of a playoff spot.  All five starters were averaging in double figures with Petrovic and Coleman leading the way at 20.6 and 19.8 points per game, respectively.

The Knicks were still leading Boston in the Atlantic Division by 4.5 games.  But the Knicks had lost a close one to the Lakers in which Ewing missed two free throws late.

New York, despite 3 days off, started this game by missing their first 7 field goals while Gerald Wilkins and Drazen Petrovic were hollering at each other.  Meanwhile, Petrovic, Blaylock, Coleman, and Morris each got early field goals to put the Nets up 8-0 and force Pat Riley to use a timeout with 9:08 left in the 1st quarter.

Finally, Mark Jackson and Gerald Wilkins brought the Knicks back to within 10-9 over the next 3 minutes.  But New York could not grab the lead despite Bowie picking up 3 fouls.

Blaylock and Coleman would then lead New Jersey to as much as an 11-point lead as the Knicks shot 6-for-20 in the 1st quarter.  The Nets led 26-17 at the end of the quarter.

New Jersey then ran to a 14-point lead with Petrovic scoring 7 points over the first 4 minutes.  The Knicks frustration almost boiled over as Morris and Anthony Mason each picked up technicals in a near-brouhaha.

The Nets kept up the attack as Mookie Blaylock attacked New York’s guards and scored 18 points in the 1st half.  Coleman was right behind him with 15.  New Jersey had as much as a 15-point lead but New York cut it to 56-44 when Wilkins made two free throws with no time on the clock.

The New York crowd was rather subdued in the 1st half and it also showed at halftime when the Knicks retired Dick McGuire’s #15.  Although one could understand that McGuire played for New York in the ’50’s (so not many people remember or saw him), the lack of enthusiasm was palpable (the loudest cheers, of course, came for the Knicks of the ’70’s that were on hand for the ceremony).

The game then continued as it did in the 1st half.  Petrovic and Coleman led the Nets back to a 15-point lead and the New York crowd started to boo.  With about 7 minutes left in the quarter, another near scuffle happened that started with Ewing and Morris talking angrily to each other.  All that became of it was Bowie being charged with a flagrant for pushing Xavier McDaniel down to the floor (McDaniel took a dive, LeBron James would be proud), and a referee almost taking himself out by tackling Bowie to get him away from the fray.  All can be seen here.

That get-together seemed to turn the momentum in the Knicks favor as New Jersey had only 1 field goal over the next 6 minutes.  Meanwhile, Ewing scored 8 points in a row (and drew fouls #5 on Bowie and #4 on Dudley) to cut the lead to 69-64.

New Jersey would increase it back to 78-68 heading into the 4th quarter, but they would not score a field goal over the first 5 minutes of the 4th.

During that time, the Knicks’ reserve back-court of Greg Anthony and John Starks (who would play, along with Anthony Mason, in the starters’ place for the rest of the game) brought New York back.  They cut it to 82-79 with 7:34 left when Ewing kicked out to Kiki Vandeweghe for a corner jumper.

Bowie countered with two outside jumpers but those would be the Nets only field goals until 2 minutes remained in the 4th quarter.  Greg Anthony found Anthony Mason for a hook (with Ewing getting the hockey assist) and then Ewing rebound-slammed a miss by Starks on the break.

With 3:49 left, Anthony found Ewing for a turnaround banker in the post to cut the lead to 86-85.  Mason later got a steal and threw a long pass to Ewing, who was able to gather it and find Starks for a breakaway slam.  This gave New York the lead but they could not increase it on their next possession.

Coleman then kicked out to Petrovic for a three from the top to give the Nets an 89-87 lead with 2:01 left (it also got a fist-pump reaction from Drazen).

Both teams couldn’t score on their next possession (with the Knicks getting 4 shots), but then Ewing attacked Bowie and drew his 6th foul with 1:07 left.  Unlike the previous game, Ewing hit two big free throws to tie the game.

The Nets went inside to Coleman who hit a banker over Mason to give Jersey a 91-89 lead.  But Coleman sprained his ankle on the play and once he was removed, he would not return to this game or play in their next one against Chicago.

Ewing then traveled on a move to the lane with 39 seconds left, and actually seemed incredulous of the call.  But then New York got a break as Petrovic traveled when he popped out to the wing to get a pass from Blaylock with 29.1 seconds to go.  Anthony then found Ewing for a leaner from the baseline to tie the game with 18.6 seconds left.

After a timeout, the Nets ran the shot clock down but Blaylock was short on a jumper from the top.  Mason rebounded and New York got a timeout with 0.9 seconds left.  But they couldn’t do anything as the inbounds pass from Mason was deflected.

The first 3 1/2 minutes of overtime was the ultimate defensive (or offensive) struggle.  Nobody scored until Greg Anthony made a free throw with a minte and a half left.  Chris Morris, after missing some bad shot attempts in the overtime, responded with a driving scoop shot in the lane to put the Nets up 93-92.

New York did not go to Ewing on their next possession and Starks threw up an airball (that sentence would become frustratingly familiar to New Yorkers by 1995, at least).  The Nets then ran down the shot clock and Tate George (who took over for a tired Blaylock for the last minute and a half of overtime instead of high-prized Anderson) hit a runner from the baseline before the buzzer.

The Knicks were now down 95-92 and took a timeout with 20.4 seconds left.  They went for the quick two-pointer and ended up getting 5 attempts before Ewing finally tipped it in with 5.6 seconds left.  New York then fouled George, who split his free throws.

Riley used a timeout with 4.6 seconds left.  Mason inbounded to Anthony, who dribbled away from traffic for a few seconds before finally getting it to Ewing.  Ewing was forced to launch a quick fall-away jumper from the elbow that went off the front rim.

The Nets had their first win in New York since 1987 and, perhaps, their biggest win of the year.  They would manage to stay in playoff contention when Golden State arrived at the Garden State for a high-scoring affair two weeks later.

The Knicks followed this loss by winning 7 games in a row.  But they still had to hold off Boston for the Atlantic Division title.

New Jersey starters (points scored)

Chris Morris (10) – Small Forward

Derrick Coleman (28) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (4) – Center

Mookie Blaylock (21) – Point Guard

Drazen Petrovic (22) – Shooting Guard

New Jersey bench (points scored)

Chris Dudley (4)

Tate George (5)

Terry Mills (2)

Rafael Addison (0)

Doug Lee (0)

New Jersey Coach: Bill Fitch

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (10) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (2) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (35) – Center

Mark Jackson (9) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (9) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (11)

Anthony Mason (6)

Greg Anthony (7)

Kiki Vandeweghe (5)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

ewing-morris

Patrick Ewing and Chris Morris caused a near brouhaha here that started with them talking.  But it was Sam Bowie, in the background, who would get a flagrant for shoving McDaniel down and then get taken down by a referee *photo courtesy of Youtube

March 15, 1992 – Portland Blazers 148 @Boston Celtics 152 (2OT)

Two weeks before this game, Portland traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls in a matchup featured on NBC.  Before the game, Phil Jackson mentioned that while Portland was talented, they had a tendency to self-destruct.  This was especially true in close games or big matchups.

The quote seemed to sting Portland, who would not get a chance to test that theory as Chicago won the game 111-91.  The Blazers followed by going on their longest winning streak of the season.  They won 7 games in a row to get to 46-18, 3 games ahead of Golden State in the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings.

But now was another chance in a nationally televised game to prove the doubters wrong.  They were traveling to Boston where they had won the last two years.

The Celtics were all sorts of not healthy through the 1992 season so far.  Coach Chris Ford lost Larry Bird to a back injury on December 30.  Bird didn’t return until March 1.  2nd year guard Dee Brown was out until February after off-season knee surgery.  Kevin McHale missed some time with assorted injuries.  All would contribute to a season in which Boston would languish behind New York in the Atlantic Division standings.

Brian Shaw would miss the first month of the season with a hamstring injury while veteran John Bagley, who had missed the entire 1991 season with a knee injury, started in his place.  Bagley stayed in the lineup even after Shaw returned and Shaw would be traded to Miami on January 10 in exchange for Sherman Douglas.

Douglas had missed the first two months with Miami after getting into a contract dispute.  He would not quite find his way in Boston for this season, so Bagley and eventually Brown started at the point.  Douglas would be out for this game with an injury.

With Brown and Bird back, the Celtics were playing with their top 6 players of Brown, Bird, McHale, Reggie Lewis, Robert Parish and Kevin Gamble for the 6th time all season.  The Celtics would also get some nice contributions from Ed Pinckney and rookie Rick Fox while others were injured.

Boston had won their first 4 games since Bird’s return, but they regressed by losing 3 in a row (which included blowing a 19-point lead to New Jersey two days earlier).  They sat at 35-29 and were 4 games behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division.

This matchup would become a regular season classic that is still being talked about.  It was also perhaps Bird’s last great moment in the NBA.

It started out well for the Celtics as they took an early 12-4 lead with Parish scoring 6 points.  But Portland got back into it with the three-point shot.  Clyde Drexler hit two and Terry Porter hit another as Portland eventually grabbed the lead.

Drexler would score 15 points in the 1st quarter while Bird contributed 10 and McHale 8.  Boston held a slight lead at 34-31 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The Blazers re-took the lead in the 2nd quarter with their bench leading the way.  Cliff Robinson and Danny Ainge each hit two field goals and then Mark Bryant’s steal and slam put Portland up 47-40 with 5 minutes gone by.

Bird would keep Boston in it as he scored 16 points on 8-for-12 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds in the 1st half.  But Drexler and Porter led Portland to a 62-58 halftime lead.  Drexler had 20 points while Porter had 16.

Portland would then increase their lead to 73-62 early in the 3rd after Porter knocked down his 3rd three-pointer of the game.  Boston responded with an 8-2 run and would stay in the game as Bird, Brown, Gamble and Lewis contributed big hoops or big steals and assists.  Brown would bruise his thigh late in the 3rd quarter and did not return, although he could’ve, until late in the 2nd overtime as Bagley played the entirety of the stretch run.

The Blazers still held an 88-81 lead when the game got away from them a bit.  First, Lewis got a three-point play on a running hook.

Then Cliff Robinson felt he was fouled on a drive in which he lost the ball out of bounds.  He argued vehemently with official Hugh Evans and probably said some magic words as Evans hit him with two quick technicals and threw Robinson out of the game.  For the short term, this hurt as Bird made two free throws.  For the long term, it would hurt as well as Rick Adelman lost the big man that he usually used down the stretch of games in 1992.

McHale would give Boston the lead on a baseline spin and scoop.  Drexler then didn’t get a call, argued, and picked up a technical.  Boston would end the 3rd quarter ahead 92-90 after Lewis hit a wing jumper.

But Lewis picked up his 5th foul early in the 4th and Portland ran to another advantage with Ainge leading the way.  Ainge hit four free throws, a jumper, and then hit Buck Williams with a nifty behind-the-back pass on a fast break.  Williams scored and was fouled on the play.  Although his missed the free throw, Portland led 100-96 with 7:38 left.

But Bird, once again, kept Boston in it as he scored their next 7 points to tie the game at 103.  Parish then gave Boston the lead with a banker after a pick-and-roll with Bagley and drew Duckworth’s 5th foul.  On the next possession, Parish drew Duckworth’s 6th foul and Adelman was left with Buck Williams as his only experienced big man.

Parish would end up scoring 8 Celtic points in a row as Boston took a 111-109 lead.  But the home team would go into a drought when they could least afford it and Portland took advantage.

Drexler tipped in a lob from Jerome Kersey.  Drexler followed with a steal and fed Bryant for a slam on a 4-on-2 break.  Williams made a free throw before missing the second shot.  But Kersey tipped in that miss and Portland led 116-111 with 3:05 left.

The only scoring in the next minute and a half was a breakaway slam from Kersey after a steal by Porter.  Boston looked in trouble as they trailed 118-111 with 1:48 left.

After a timeout by Ford, McHale drew Buck Williams’ 5th foul and hit two free throws.  Parish then rebounded a missed jumper by Porter.  But Drexler stripped Lewis on a drive and McHale fouled Kersey, who hit 1-of-2 from the line.

Bryant fouled Bird with 48.4 seconds left and Bird hit two free throws to cut the lead to 119-115.  Portland ran down the shot clock and Drexler missed on a drive.  But Boston couldn’t control the rebound and Buck Williams came up with it.  Drexler was fouled with 20 seconds left and the writing looked to be on the wall.

Drexler split the free throws to put Portland up 120-115.  Boston used their last timeout and went inside to Bird.  Bird quickly spun past Kersey on the baseline and hit on a reverse layup.  He then fouled Williams with 15 seconds left.  Buck was Portland’s weakest foul shooter but hit both shots this time.

Bagley then found Bird for a driving layup to cut the lead back to 122-119.  McHale then fouled Kersey with 7.2 seconds left and Boston was now down to needing Kersey to miss both shots.

Kersey did just that and, to add insult to injury, he stepped into the lane after releasing the second shot (knowing he missed it) and was called for a lane violation.  This stopped the clock and let Boston set a play without a timeout, which was key since they were out of them.  Portland then helped out some more by using their own timeout.  They were living up to their self-destruction label so far.

Lewis inbounded at three-quarter court to Bagley.  Lewis quickly got a return pass and found Bird at the left wing guarded by Drexler.  Bird spun and then got into the air with Clyde the Glide.  Since Bird wasn’t going to win that leaping matchup, he jumped into Drexler with the left side of his body and shielded the ball in his right hand.  He ended up double-pumping and launching a running three (Bird ended up landing way in front of the three-point line but he had started his jump from just behind the line) that went down and sent the Boston Garden crowd into a frenzy.

Bird had done it again, this time with an awkwardly incredible shot.

Portland got a timeout with 2 seconds left and got a decent shot as well.  But Drexler missed a three from the top of the key and the game was headed into overtime.

At this time, Bird had 43 points.  This included 16 in the 4th quarter and Boston’s last 9 points.

Boston took the early lead in overtime as Bird hit a turnaround from the baseline.  But Portland went on a 6-0 run to take a 132-128 advantage with under 2 minutes left.

But Bagley knocked down a big jumper from the top after Bird kicked out to him.  Then Bird tied it with a turnaround fall-away from the post.

With 50.9 seconds left, Drexler drove and drew Lewis’ 6th foul.  Drexler hit both free throws this time.  Bird then missed two threes on the next possession, including a wide open one after Bagley penetrated and kicked out.  Kersey rebounded Bird’s second miss and Portland ran down the shot clock.

In an instant replay of regulation, Drexler missed at the end of the clock but Buck Williams came up with the offensive rebound.  He was fouled by Parish with 4.4 seconds left.

But wouldn’t you guess it, Williams missed both free throws to keep Portland’s self-destruction label going.  Bird rebounded his second miss and got a timeout with 4.2 seconds left.

Ford had Kevin Gamble inbounding this time with Lewis out.  Gamble couldn’t get it to Bird so he found Bagley and then headed for the corner.  Bagley returned the ball to a suddenly wide-open Gamble who knocked down the jumper as the buzzer sounded to tie the game and send it into a 2nd overtime.

With that, the Celtics would finally take control in the 2nd overtime.  They went on an 8-0 run which culminated with Bird finding Ed Pinckney (who came in when McHale fouled out early in the 2nd overtime) for a reverse slam.  Boston led 144-136 with 1:15 left.

Portland, to their credit, didn’t give up easily as Drexler’s scoring and passing (and a long three from Ainge) cut the lead to 149-147 with 23.1 seconds left.  But then Drexler committed his 6th foul on Gamble with 14.9 seconds left.  Drexler got a nice ovation from the Boston crowd after his 41-point performance.

Gamble made both free throws to put the game away.

Portland would finish the season at 57-25, which was good enough for tops in the West.  They got by the Lakers in the 1st round and won some close games against Phoenix to take a 2-1 lead in their 2nd round series.  Game 4 would be another double overtime classic.

With everyone seemingly healthy, Boston would go on a 7-game winning streak following a loss at Milwaukee two days later.  But on April 3, the streak was snapped in a loss to Indiana and Bird would be injured again.  At the time, Boston was 5 games behind the Knicks and seemed destined for a 1st round matchup with Detroit.

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (23) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (15) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (6) – Center

Terry Porter (29) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (41) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Danny Ainge (19)

Cliff Robinson (5)

Mark Bryant (6)

Alaa Abdelnaby (2)

Robert Pack (2)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

Boston starters (points scored)

Kevin Gamble (14) – Small Forward

Larry Bird (49) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (22) – Center

Dee Brown (4) – Point Guard

Reggie Lewis (23) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (22)

John Bagley (9)

Ed Pinckney (6)

Rick Fox (3)

Boston Coach: Chris Ford

big-3-bird-parish-mchale

March 15, 1992 would perhaps be the last great moment of the Big 3 (certainly the last for Bird except possibly Game 6 of the East Semifinals vs. Cleveland) *photo courtesy of Basketball Photo

March 19, 1992 – Chicago Bulls 106 @Washington Bullets 100

Occasionally when you are the champion, the get a challenge from a struggling team that just happens to hit on all cylinders that particular night.  Sometimes the champion loses, and the bad team celebrates like they won the championship.  Other times, the champion wins a very close game or pulls away in the end when the bad team reverts to form with the pressure on.  That’s what the Washington Bullets did in this case.

The Bullets had not made the playoffs since 1988, when Wes Unseld took over as head coach mid-way through the season.  After that season, they drafted forwards Harvey Grant in the 1st round and Ledell Eackles in the 2nd round.  Grant would become an 18 point per game scorer by 1992, while Eackles split starting time with Larry Stewart but was Washington’s 4th leading scorer and would have a big game against the Bulls.

Tom Hammonds was drafted with the 9th pick in 1989, but he struggled his first two and a half seasons in Washington before being traded to Charlotte for Rex Chapman a month before this game.  Chapman would play one game for the Bullets, at the end of the year, due to injuries.

In 1990, the Bullets acquired 1989 top pick Pervis Ellison in a three-team deal.  They also drafted A.J. English in the 2nd round.  In 1991, the Bullets swapped 1st round picks with Denver and acquired Michael Adams in the deal.  Adams made his only All-Star game appearance for the Bullets in 1992.  Washington drafted Louisville’s LaBradford Smith with that 1st round pick.

Then to fill out the roster for 1992, the Bullets signed the likes of David Wingate, Larry Stewart and Andre Turner as free agents.  All amounted to a 22-44 record when they took on the Bulls on March 19.  Chicago was looking for their 8th win in a row.

But it wouldn’t come easy as Eackles morphed into a great player and hit several jump shots.  Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were hitting early for Chicago, but all were from the outside and nobody else on the Bulls starting lineup was getting involved.

Finally Washington grabbed a 20-19 when Eackles scored his 8th point on a driving double-pump.  Wes Unseld’s team would not relinquish the lead for awhile and took a 26-21 advantage at the end of the 1st quarter.

Harvey Grant, who was the twin brother of Chicago Bull Horace Grant, scored 5 early points in the 2nd quarter to put the Bullets up 33-23.  Washington held that advantage until Adams got going late in the 2nd quarter and scored 9 points.

The Bullets went up by as much as 58-43 before Pippen drove and spun down the lane for a slam.  Washington held a 58-46 lead at the break but Chicago survived a momentum play as Adams stole the ball from Pippen in the last few seconds but missed a breakaway.  Still, the Bullets had only 4 turnovers in the 1st half.

Jordan got going in the 3rd quarter, with some help from Pippen, to get Chicago back into the game.  Michael scored 11 points in the first 7 minutes as the lead was cut to 69-66.

MJ would end up with 15 points in the 3rd quarter and 31 after three.  Pippen had 8 of his 20 points so far in the 3rd quarter.  Those two brought Chicago all the way back to take a 78-77 lead entering the 4th quarter.  Eackles was keeping Washington in it with 24 points.

The Bulls took an early five-point lead in the 4th quarter against Washington’s bench, but the Bullets went on a 6-0 run to take an 83-82 lead.

Jordan then went for the kill.  He hit a pull-up from the top and then a flying slam after spinning baseline against A.J. English, who would be guarding Michael in the 4th quarter.

Jordan then connected on a pull-up banker in transition followed by a runner in the lane against a double-team.  The Bulls led 92-85 but Washington countered with an 8-0 run, culminated with two more buckets from Eackles.  Chicago now trailed 93-92 with 3:43 left and Phil Jackson had to use a timeout.

Jordan then hit four free throws and Horace Grant tipped in a miss.  But Pervis Ellison, who would win the Most Improved Player in 1992 (before regressing and becoming the same player in 1994 that he was in 1991), kept Washington in it with a turnaround jumper from the post and then an alley-oop slam off a Harvey Grant feed.

But with 1:40 left, Ellison had the chance to give Washington a 99-98 lead.  But he missed both free throws.  Chicago later controlled a jump ball and Jordan hit a pull-up in the lane over Wingate to give the Bulls a 100-97 lead with 1:09 left.

Ellison then lost the ball out of bounds on a feed from Adams.  Later, after Eackles came up with a steal but English missed a shot, Ellison committed a foul on Jordan with 33.4 seconds left (Pervis was already reverting to bust form).

MJ made both free throws and then sealed the deal with a block on Ellison at the other end.  After two more free throws, Jordan had a season-high of 51 points, including 20 in the 4th quarter, and the Bulls had survived.

Chicago was pretty much locked into the top spot, although their 8-game winning streak would be snapped with a home loss to Orlando two nights later.  The Bulls would travel to Boston late in the season as the Celtics looked for a launching pad at one more run at the Knicks for the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, Washington would finish at 25-57 and would get another Jordan-esque performance against them in December, 1992.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (22) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (9) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (1) – Center

John Paxson (6) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (51) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (4)

Craig Hodges (9)

Will Perdue (2)

Stacey King (1)

Cliff Levingston (1)

Scott Williams (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Washington starters (points scored)

Ledell Eackles (28) – Small Forward

Harvey Grant (11) – Power Forward

Pervis Ellison (16) – Center

Michael Adams (19) – Point Guard

David Wingate (10) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

A.J. English (10)

Larry Stewart (4)

LaBradford Smith (2)

Andre Turner (0)

Charles Jones (0)

Washington Coach: Wes Unseld

March 28, 1992 – Golden State Warriors 153 @New Jersey Nets 148 (OT)

At the same time that Kentucky was taking on Duke in perhaps the greatest college basketball game of all time (written about in the 1992 College Basketball post), two high-scoring teams were going at it.  Although, at one point, the crowd and some of the players were more enthralled by the ending of the Kentucky/Duke game.

Whenever Golden State was involved, a high-scoring affair was possible.  At various points through the season, Don Nelson was experimenting with rookie Billy Owens at guard.  And he wasn’t done experimenting.  But, for this game, Owens was at forward in Golden State’s fast lineup.

The Warriors were 46-23, 3.5 games behind Portland for the top spot in the West while New Jersey was staying in playoff contention at 31-38, 1 game behind Miami for the final playoff spot in the East.

The teams started out very fast as New Jersey led 17-15 just over 5 minutes into the game.  The Nets were 8-for-10 from the field at that point while Golden State was 5-for-9.

All five Nets starters were in the scoring act at that point, including Chris Dudley (starting in place of an injured Sam Bowie) who was dominating the Warriors small lineup down low.  Eventually, Tyrone Hill picked up 4 fouls while Owens, who was leading the Warriors with 7 points, picked up 2.

A three-point play by Derrick Coleman tied the game at 28 with 2:58 left in the 1st quarter.  The Nets would later go on an 8-0 run to take a 42-37 lead at the end of the 1st period.  New Jersey was 18-for-26 from the field.

The Nets were able to hold that lead throughout the 2nd quarter as both teams traded hoops.  Kenny Anderson, who wasn’t seeing much time in his rookie season, came in and sparked the Nets late in the 2nd quarter.  He finished with 7 points and 2 assists, but did not play in the 2nd half.

New Jersey led 73-69 at the half as Coleman led the way with 18 points.  Drazen Petrovic and Chris Morris each had 12.  Tim Hardaway led the way for Golden State with 15 points.  Mario Elie and Owens had 13 (Owens had 4 fouls too) and Sarunas Marciulionis had 12 off the bench.

Tyrone Hill, despite picking up his 5th foul, sparked the Warriors in the 3rd quarter with 9 points and some key boards.  Golden State re-took the lead as Marciulionis also added 12 points in the quarter.

But Coleman and Mookie Blaylock kept New Jersey right in the game.  Blaylock scored 13 points, including a coast-to-coast scoop at the end of 3rd quarter buzzer to cut the Warriors’ lead to 109-108 heading into the 4th.

In the 4th, the Nets took a quick lead as Dudley scored and hit the boards.  He would finish with a double-double.  New Jersey also got 7 points from Terry Mills, which included a three-pointer to put the Nets up 129-119 with 6 minutes to go.

New Jersey would increase that lead to as much as 11 but a reverse scoop by Hardaway on a drive to the lane (an incredible shot as Hardaway wasn’t looking at the basket when he shot it) cut the lead to 135-128 with 2:39 left.

The Nets held on at 139-132 but had a turnover on a long pass with 55.2 seconds left.  After a timeout, Owens took advantage of a mismatch that Nellie was hoping he’d have by playing the 6’8″ Owens in the back court.  Owens posted up Petrovic, scored, and drew a foul.

He missed the free throw but his former Syracuse teammate, Coleman, split a pair of charity tosses.  Hardaway then went 1-on-1 and scored to cut the lead to 140-136.  Blaylock then split a pair of free throws.  Elie tipped in a Marciulionis miss.  Marciulionis then came up with a steal and was fouled, but he split his free throws.

After this confusion, Golden State had cut the lead to 141-139 with 27.6 seconds left.  Nellie wanted his team to play straight up defense and not foul.  They did so for 19 seconds until Marciulionis fouled Morris with 8.3 seconds left and got yelled at by Nelson.

But Morris split his free throws giving the Warriors a chance.  New Jersey went 7-for-12 from the line in the final 2:39.

After Golden State’s last timeout, Hardaway got the ball at the top against Blaylock.  Mookie went for the steal and Hardaway spun to his left.  He had an open three, launched, and nailed it to tie the game with 3.7 seconds left.

New Jersey used a timeout but didn’t get a good shot as Mills bricked a three from the top.

After the scoring explosion of regulation, the two teams went scoreless for the first 2 minutes of overtime before Coleman hit a pull-up from the baseline after a spin.

Marciulionis responded with a euro-step and a score.  Coleman then lobbed to Morris for a slam but Elie came right back with a driving three-point play to give Golden State a 147-146 lead.

Hardaway later alley-ooped to Owens on a fast break to give the Warriors a 3-point lead with 1:08 left.  But New Jersey would fight back as Coleman hit a turnaround from the post and Dudley blocked a Hardaway shot.

The Nets went back to Coleman down low.  He was doubled but tried to shoot over it.  His shot was blocked by Vincent Askew from the weak side.  This set up a transition break in which Owens slammed and was fouled by Morris with 9.5 seconds left.

The three-point play essentially finished the game and looked like a killer loss for the Nets and their playoff hopes.

New Jersey sat at 31-39 and were two games out of the playoffs.  But then Bill Fitch’s team won 9 of their final 12 games to climb to the 6th spot in the East at 40-42 and set up a date with Cleveland in the 1st round.

Golden State would finish at 55-27, their best record since 1975-76, and Owens averaged a solid 14.3 points per game (4th on the team) and 8.0 rebounds per game (1st on the team).

But they finished 2 games behind Portland in the Pacific Division (back-to-back losses to the Trailblazers in a home-and-home series in April proved to be the difference, the Blazers went 3-2 against the Warriors during the season), and would get an introduction to the Reign Man in the playoffs.

Golden State starters (points scored)

Chris Mullin (21) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (21) – Power Forward

Tyrone Hill (10) – Center

Tim Hardaway (34) – Point Guard

Mario Elie (23) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Sarunas Marciulionis (35)

Vincent Askew (5)

Chris Gatling (3)

Victor Alexander (1)

Jud Buechler (0)

Golden State Coach: Don Nelson

New Jersey starters (points scored)

Chris Morris (15) – Small Forward

Derrick Coleman (35) – Power Forward

Chris Dudley (16) – Center

Mookie Blaylock (27) – Point Guard

Drazen Petrovic (23) – Shooting Guard

New Jersey bench (points scored)

Terry Mills (15)

Kenny Anderson (7)

Tate George (6)

Rafael Addison (4)

Doug Lee (0)

New Jersey Coach: Bill Fitch

April 5, 1992 – Chicago Bulls 86 @Boston Celtics 97

With two weeks to go in the regular season, the Boston Celtics were trying to hold off Detroit for the 4th spot in the East.  They were 1 game ahead of the Pistons and 5 games behind New York for the Atlantic Division title.

It didn’t look like Boston was going to catch the Knicks, especially after they lost Larry Bird again to back spasms that were aggravated in a loss to Indiana two days prior.

Now their prospect seemed to be that if they could beat the Pistons in the 1st round (the Celtics had lost to Detroit in 1991, despite having home court advantage), they would get into a 2nd round matchup against the Bulls.  This didn’t look at all promising for Boston as Chicago had pummeled them 3 times so far in the regular season.

If nothing else, this would give the Celtics a chance to tell themselves and their followers that they could compete with Chicago.  But without Bird, who would end up missing a month, it wasn’t expected.

Although an advantage for Boston was that Chicago had long clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs and now were just playing out the season.  Phil Jackson, who just got a contract extension through the 1996 season, was now resting his regulars a little bit more and playing his bench to help build their confidence.  The Bulls motivation may not have been helped by Larry Bird not playing.

Despite not having Bird in the Boston Garden that day, there was a presence from the old 1980’s rivalry.  Magic Johnson in his continued retirement had become the third man on the broadcast table for NBC with Marv Albert and Mike Fratello.  Magic got a warm reception from the Boston Garden crowd.

It didn’t look like Chicago was coasting early on as they grabbed a 6-0 lead after a three-point play by Scottie Pippen on a cut following a handoff from Bill Cartwright as part of the triangle offense.

Robert Parish and Dee Brown kept Boston in the game but Chicago maintained a 20-14 lead before Brown hit two jumpers and found Kevin Gamble for another to tie the game at 20.  Brown then extended the run to 8-0 with a stop-and-go drive and layup as he looked to get some early offense with John Paxson guarding him.

The run went to 10-0 before it was stopped and Boston held a 28-26 lead at the end of the 1st quarter despite 9 points from Pippen and 8 from Jordan.  Brown had led the way with 10 points for Boston.

The scoring continued in the 2nd quarter as neither team seemed to be able to play defense, a concern that at least Phil Jackson expressed as his team had coasted down the stretch of the season.

Jordan and Pippen led the way for the Bulls while Reggie Lewis and Kevin McHale was doing most of the scoring for Boston.  It went back-and-forth before Parish hit three key baskets to help give Boston a 55-51 lead at the half.

Jordan had 18 points and Pippen 17, while the rest of the team had 16.  Not the balance that Chicago usually had when they had success.  Lewis, Brown, and Parish each had 12 to lead the Celtics.

The scoring dropped considerably in the 3rd quarter as each team went cold and settled for outside shots.

Chicago eventually tied it at 59 but Boston regained the lead with a 6-0 run and held off the Bulls to lead 70-67 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Brown had picked up his 4th foul for Boston while, most notably, Jordan and Horace Grant were getting extended rest periods for Chicago.

Chicago’s bench was mostly in for the start of the 4th quarter and Boston maintained its lead with McHale scoring 8 points early on.  The Celtics extended to their biggest advantage when John Bagley hit two field goals, including a pull-up jumper at the end of the shot clock.

Boston now led 84-76 and Jackson used a timeout with 6:25 left.  At that point, Phil went back with his starters and said, win the game.

But Jordan was cold and couldn’t get anything going while Boston had the momentum and couldn’t be stopped.  Bagley hit a three and Rick Fox hit a runner in the lane.

The Bulls would get as close as 91-86 before McHale grabbed a defensive rebound and Gamble went coast-to-coast for a layup with 1:28 to go.

Chicago did not score from there and Boston had a confidence boosting win without Larry Bird.  Bird would miss the rest of the regular season and the 1st round of the playoffs.

But despite that, Boston finished off the season with an 8-game winning streak that started with this win over Chicago.  A key win in that streak would be a 93-89 triumph over New York to give Boston a 3-2 season series advantage over the Knicks.

It became huge when Boston’s win streak helped them tie New York at the top of the Atlantic Division at 51-31.  With their season series win, Boston claimed the Atlantic Division and swept 7th seeded Indiana in the 1st round to extend their win streak to 11.  Meanwhile, New York would get the tough 1st round series against Detroit.

The winner of that series would play the 67-15 Bulls, who would get another special performance from Jordan in polishing off 8th seeded Miami.  This game will be featured later in the blog.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (22) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (13) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (4) – Center

John Paxson (12) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (26) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (4)

Stacey King (4)

Will Perdue (1)

Craig Hodges (0)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Scott Williams (0)

Bobby Hansen (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Boston starters (points scored)

Kevin Gamble (10) – Small Forward

Ed Pinckney (4) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (14) – Center

Dee Brown (14) – Point Guard

Reggie Lewis (21) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (20)

Rick Fox (5)

John Bagley (9)

Boston Coach: Chris Ford

April 28, 1992 – East Quarterfinals, Game 3: Cleveland Cavaliers 104 @New Jersey Nets 109

It wasn’t a terribly exciting start to the 1992 NBA playoffs.  In the first 17 games, spanning 5 days, the road team had won 3 times (the 3rd of which was Boston completing the sweep in Indiana on April 27).

But on its 6th day, the playoffs started to get going (especially if you lived in L.A. as we covered at the top of this post).  Detroit (vs. New York) and Seattle (vs. Golden State) were the only underdogs to win road games so far, and both series would play a classic Game 3 on this night (April 28).

But first, the Cleveland Cavaliers were trying for their first playoff series win since 1976.  They were also trying to sweep a series for the first time against a resurgent New Jersey Nets team.

New Jersey was in the playoffs for the first time since 1986 and were trying to win their first playoff game since 1984.  They made a battle of it in Game 1 as Drazen Petrovic scored 40 points (without hitting a single three-pointer).  But ultimately Cleveland won 120-113 as Brad Daugherty had 40 as well and Mark Price followed with 35 (and was the only player from either team to hit a three-pointer in the game, he hit 5 of them).

Cleveland had a much easier time in Game 2 as Daugherty led 5 double figure scorers with 29.  The Cavs won 118-96 despite Petrovic and Derrick Coleman scoring over 20 but getting almost no help.

The Cavaliers started out Game 3 as hot as they had been in Cleveland.  Steve Kerr, who had been starting in the playoffs so far ahead of Craig Ehlo and John Battle at the two-guard spot, hit two jumpers to give the Cavs the lead.

But 9 early points from Chris Morris put the Nets out in front 17-12 halfway through the quarter.  New Jersey continued to lead as Coleman scored 10 1st quarter points and the Nets defense held Daugherty scoreless for most of the period.

But Cleveland cut it back to 31-30 at the end of the quarter as Larry Nance scored 9 points for Lenny Wilkens’ team.

The 2nd quarter would be more scoring and hot shooting with a little bit of chippiness involved.

Danny Ferry and Drazen Petrovic almost came to blows (it actually looked like Ferry threw a haymaker) and were each assessed double technicals.  But this would not match the chippiness of Seattle/Golden State and especially New York/Detroit.

Coleman definitely threw a haymaker in the scuffle but it went unnoticed by the officials, luckily for New Jersey.  Coleman had gotten a technical earlier in the quarter for slamming the ball after an offensive foul was called on him.

Nance and Morris led the for their teams in a high-scoring 2nd quarter.  Nance finished the half with 16 points while Hot Rod Williams scored 10 off the bench in the 2nd.

Morris had 19 at the half and actually hit his first 11 shots of the game and finished 12-for-14 from the field.  New Jersey led 59-54 at the half.

Morris’ hot shooting continued to keep the Nets ahead early in the 3rd quarter.  But baskets by Price and Nance tied the game at 68 with 6:11 left.

New Jersey continued with its cold spell and Cleveland took a 75-70 lead.  They increased it to 84-77 at the end of the 3rd quarter as Nance had 22 points and Price had come alive with 8 of his 15 points in the 3rd.

The 4th quarter didn’t start out promisingly for New Jersey either.  Struggling Mookie Blaylock, who had yet to show up for the playoffs, picked up his 5th foul.  Then with 8 1/2 to go, a wing jumper by Nance put the Cavs up 88-78.

They kept that lead at 10 until Coleman tipped in a miss.  Then former Cavalier and Yale Bulldog Chris Dudley sparked the Nets, as he jumped out and stole an inbounds pass at halfcourt.  He then fed Petrovic for a breakaway layup to cut the lead to 92-86.  Wilkens used a timeout with 6:07 left.

Nance hit for his 28th point on a baseline jumper to stem the tide.  But Coleman responded with a turnaround from the baseline.  He then fed Dudley on a cut for a banker to cut the lead to 94-90.  Petrovic followed with a three and the Nets and New Jersey crowd were fully back into it.

Blaylock came back in and hit a huge three after 4 free throws from Price.  Blaylock then found Coleman for a turnaround from the post to cut Cleveland’s lead to 99-98.

After Nance picked up his 5th foul, Dudley tipped in a miss to give New Jersey the lead with 2:39 left.  Dudley had sparked the team with 3 offensive rebounds and great defense on Daugherty.

A putback by Terry Mills, who was in the game for Morris to match Cleveland’s huge front line of Nance, Hot Rod, and Daugherty, gave New Jersey a 104-101 advantage with under 2 minutes left.

After Petrovic committed a silly foul in the back court, Kerr hit two free throws.  But Drazen made up for it on the next possession as he popped out to the top of the key beyond the three-point line, took a pass from Blaylock, and nailed a trey with 1:02 to go to give New Jersey a 107-103 lead.  Drazen followed with an emotional celebration that must’ve been felt by every Nets fan and fan from Europe.

That three ended up putting the game away, although the Nets had to survive two missed threes by Price that could have cut the lead to one.  New Jersey had their first playoff win since 1984 and would be a quarter away from getting their second in Game 4.

But led by Hot Rod Williams, the Cavs out-scored New Jersey 31-16 in the 4th quarter of Game 4 to win 98-89 and move on to play Boston in the 2nd round.  It would be their 2nd playoff series win and 1 of the 4 they got before LeBron James hit town.

New Jersey had a young, talented team that would be back in 1993 with a different coach.  Several young stars had mutiny against Bill Fitch.  Morris and Coleman had refused to go into games late in the season and at the end of Game 4, Petrovic sulked on the bench, reportedly by choice, as the Nets season ended.

Fitch resigned on May 12 and another veteran coach would be named to replace him 16 days later.

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Mike Sanders (6) – Small Forward

Larry Nance (28) – Power Forward

Brad Daugherty (14) – Center

Mark Price (19) – Point Guard

Steve Kerr (9) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Hot Rod Williams (18)

John Battle (8)

Craig Ehlo (2)

Danny Ferry (0)

Cleveland Coach: Lenny Wilkens

New Jersey starters (points scored)

Chris Morris (28) – Small Forward

Derrick Coleman (22) – Power Forward

Sam Bowie (8) – Center

Mookie Blaylock (10) – Point Guard

Drazen Petrovic (20) – Shooting Guard

New Jersey bench (points scored)

Terry Mills (9)

Chris Dudley (5)

Tate George (5)

Kenny Anderson (2)

New Jersey Coach: Bill Fitch

drazen-petrovic

Drazen Petrovic’s reaction after hitting the game-cinching three-pointer to give the Nets their first playoff win in 8 years *photo courtesy of The Brooklyn Game

March 28, 1992 – East Quarterfinals, Game 3: New York Knicks 90 @Detroit Pistons 87 (OT)

In a way, these two teams set the precedent for the next decade of physical, low-scoring games in this series.

Many of Detroit’s stars were past their prime while New York never really had much to go with Patrick Ewing, so they needed to keep games low-scoring to stay in it.

The Knicks did open it up to 109 points in Game 1 in blowing out the Pistons by 34.  Ewing led the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds.  Ewing was held to 12 and 6, on 5-for-20 shooting, in Game 2 as Joe Dumars led 5 double figure Detroit scorers with 21 points.

But it was Isiah Thomas who came through with a game-winner to give the Pistons an 89-88 win and a tied series going back to Auburn Hills.

The Palace was primed and it was interesting to hear Piston broadcaster George Blaha talk about the Knicks, especially Charles Oakley, being cheap-shot artists when the Pistons had been doing it for the last 5 years.  But, hey, who said local announcers are objective, and its not like the Knicks weren’t cheap-shot artists.

Oakley almost got into it with the Pistons bench in the first minute of the game.  Then Oakley forearm shivered Dennis Rodman on a drive to the hoop that caused another mini-fracas.  Oakley got a flagrant and Ewing and Orlando Woolridge got double technicals.

Xavier McDaniel got a technical later on when Rodman fouled him twice on a drive to the hoop, something Blaha “somehow” missed.  Rodman also got a technical early in the game after arguing with an official.

But after the first 5 minutes, the teams settled down and played as clean a game as they possibly could, which wasn’t that clean of a game.  But there were no more brouhahas and only two more technicals.

The Oakley flagrant ignited Detroit early on as they went on a 9-2 run to take a 14-8 lead at the 6:53 mark.  McDaniel led the Knicks back with 8 points late in the quarter to give New York a 22-20 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.

The scoring continued to go at a snails pace as neither team reached 40% from the field.  But Anthony Mason and John Salley sparked their teams off the bench in the 2nd quarter.  Each had 9 points and were very active in the quarter.

The Pistons recovered to take a 41-40 halftime lead when Dumars nailed a deep pull-up from the wing.

But the Knicks got off to the fast start in the 3rd quarter as they pounded the offensive board and got numerous second and third shots, most notably with scores from McDaniel and Ewing.

After a breakaway layup by Mark Jackson, the Knicks had a 50-43 lead with under 8 minutes to go.

They managed to hold that lead by default for the rest of the quarter.  But Detroit got big momentum after Jackson committed an offensive foul with 3 seconds left in the 3rd period.

The Pistons went to Mark Aguirre at the deep wing and he got off one of the few clean shots he would in this game (a fadeaway from a few steps in the front of the three-point line, no less) and nailed it with 0.7 seconds left to cut New York’s lead to 61-59 heading into the 4th quarter.

New York got off to another fast start in the first 2 minutes of the 4th, helped by a John Salley technical after a horrific foul call against Ewing.

The Knicks led 68-61 and Chuck Daly decided to go with a three-guard lineup with Darrell Walker matching up against Xavier McDaniel.

Somehow it worked as the Pistons defense swarmed and double-teamed the low post people and the Knicks went ice cold.

Detroit also hit the offensive boards as Bill Laimbeer and John Salley put back misses to tie the game at 68 and force Pat Riley to use a timeout with 7:34 left.

Dumars then hit a jumper and Laimbeer nailed a three to complete a 12-0 Detroit run and force Riley to use another timeout.

But the Knicks got a big hoop when Ewing kicked out of the double team to John Starks for a three-pointer.  It would be New York’s only hoop for awhile but it kept them within range after Laimbeer and Walker each hit two free throws to give Detroit a 77-71 lead.

Ewing then hit a turnaround over Rodman while drawing a foul, and finally taking advantage of the small lineup.  (It was interesting that Laimbeer wasn’t guarding Ewing down the stretch, which tells me the little quickness Laimbeer once had was all but gone).

Isiah hit a pull-up at the end of the shot clock for one of his three field goals (in 12 attempts) on the day.  Ewing responded with a turnaround jumper from the post.

The scoring then stopped over the next few minutes.  Detroit would have a big basket waived off when Dumars nailed one just after the 24-second buzzer went off.

Ewing finally cut it to 79-77 with a free throw after New York got three offensive rebounds on that possession.  But Ewing fouled Dumars on a drive with 27.5 seconds left.  It was a hard, but clean (for 1992), foul.  But it did leave Dumars perhaps a little shaken.  He missed the two free throws (Karma, Bad Boys? Karma?).

Oakley rebounded the second miss and New York didn’t use a timeout.  They went inside to Ewing, who nailed a turnaround, fall-away jumper in the lane to tie the game at 79 with 13.4 seconds left.

Detroit used a timeout and went to Isiah to go 1-on-1 against Mark Jackson.  There had been numerous times Isiah had blown by Jackson with ease but, in this case, Jackson stayed in front of Isiah and forced him to take a prayer of a hook shot at the buzzer that hit nothing but the side of the backboard.  Overtime.

Jackson would seem to get confidence from his 1-on-1 defensive skills and made some key plays in overtime.  He penetrated and, at first, found Starks for a corner three.  Then he penetrated again and found McDaniel for a baseline jumper.  New York led 84-81.

The teams suddenly couldn’t stop each other in overtime as Detroit cut the lead to one when Laimbeer connected on a baseline jumper.  But Ewing drove right past Laimbeer at the end of the shot clock for a scoop and a foul.  Although Ewing missed the free throw, New York led 86-83.

Dumars then hit a pull-up from the wing.  Detroit then almost had a stop but they were called for a kick ball with 4 seconds left on the shot clock and 1:40 left in the game.  Ewing then took the inbounds pass and made a runner in the lane.

Isiah then found Salley, who stepped through two defenders and made a banker fron the left of the lane to cut the Knicks lead back to 88-87.

Detroit then finally got a stop when Ewing kicked the ball out of the double team to the top that went in between Jackson and Starks and to the back-court with around 34 seconds left.

Isiah missed a runner in the lane and the ball was knocked out of bounds off of Detroit.  But the Pistons got another chance when Dumars stole a bad inbounds pass from Oakley.  The Pistons used a timeout with 13 seconds left.

This time, they went to Dumars to go 1-on-1 against Starks.  Starks successfully hand-checked Dumars (legal at the time) and forced him to kick it out after trying to drive.  Jackson stole the kickout pass and was fouled with 3.9 seconds left.  Jackson made both free throws.

Detroit got one more chance after a timeout but Laimbeer was short on a three-point push shot and New York survived and puffed their chests coming off the court.

But Detroit survived another slugfest, 86-82, in Game 4 to send the series back to Madison Square Garden for an all-or-nothing Game 5.

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (21) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (0) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (32) – Center

Mark Jackson (10) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (5) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (6)

Anthony Mason (11)

Kiki Vandeweghe (5)

Greg Anthony (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

Detroit starters (points scored)

Dennis Rodman (11) – Small Forward

Orlando Woolridge (10) – Power Forward

Bill Laimbeer (15) – Center

Isiah Thomas (6) – Point Guard

Joe Dumars (15) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

John Salley (20)

Mark Aguirre (4)

Darrell Walker (6)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

May 28, 1992 – Golden State Warriors 128 @Seattle Sonics 129

Its games like this that make me sad there’s no basketball team in Seattle anymore.  The crowd was into it, loud, energetic, and definitely made its impact.  What also helped was the balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face style of play-by-play man Kevin Calabro (a pre-cursor perhaps to Gus Johnson in terms of every play being the most exciting play ever, Calabro may have taken 6 breaths throughout the game and sometimes one forgot that he was with an analyst in Bob Blackburn, who was soon let go in what he called “forced retirement.”).

The Supersonics, as a team, were young and up-and-coming.  They had become the first 8-seed to force the top seed into a 5th and deciding game in the 1st round in 1991 when they did so to Portland.

K.C. Jones had only lost Sedale Threatt from his 1991 team when the Sonics traded him to the Lakers for 3 future 2nd round picks.

Jones had a deep, core roster of guards Ricky Pierce, Gary Payton, Nate McMillan, and Dana Barros, along with forwards Derrick McKey, Shawn Kemp, and Eddie Johnson and centers Benoit Benjamin and Michael Cage.

The Sonics got off to a good start but slumped in January and were 18-18 when K.C. Jones was fired.  He would eventually be replaced by George Karl, who was more of a disciplinarian.  The Sonics eventually righted themselves and had a 25-11 finish to the season to grab the 6th spot at 47-35.

They put it together despite McKey missing almost two months with torn ligaments in his thumb.  Veterans Pierce and Johnson were the most consistent while youngsters Kemp and Payton a little less so (more often than not in 1992, Kemp came off the bench).

But Kemp would be huge in a Game 1 victory against 55-27 Golden State in which the Sonics never trailed.  Kemp had 28 points (on 10-for-15 shooting) and 16 rebounds as Seattle out-rebounded Golden State 52-34.  This happened despite the Warriors going with the big lineup of Billy Owens in the back court.  But Owens seemed to be the only Warrior to show up as he had 25 and 11.

The Warriors did something about it in the next game when Alton Lister knocked Kemp off-balance on a baseline drive and the two wrestled each other to the floor and nearly set off an altercation.

That happened early in the 3rd quarter and seemed to key the Warriors, who went on a rebounding rampage despite going with a small lineup.  Mario Elie sparked the Warriors with 17 2nd half points and Owens had another double-double.

Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway came back stronger after not shooting well in Game 1 as Golden State ran away with it and tied the series at 1-1 headed to Seattle.

The Warriors continued with their small lineup while Seattle put Benoit Benjamin into the starting lineup for Game 3.

Golden State got off to an early lead as Lister attacked Benjamin and got 7 early points.  But after the 1st quarter, Lister did not play.  The tone would be set as each team looked like it couldn’t stop the other.  They were tied at 28 at the end of the 1st quarter.  It would be the only quarter in which either team scored under 30 points.

The Sonics got going with a 15-8 run in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the 2nd quarter.  Dana Barros would be the key cog with 3 three-pointers during that stretch.  But other members of Seattle’s bench; Nate McMillan, Eddie Johnson, and Michael Cage, also contributed.

Derrick McKey took advantage of his matchup against Mullin and had 14 1st half points.  The Sonics went up by as many as nine, but late three-pointers by Mullin (who kept the Warriors in it with 11 2nd quarter points) and Hardaway (with 1.1 seconds left) cut the Seattle lead to 65-60 at the half.

Seattle broke out again in the 1st 2 minutes of the 3rd quarter and took a 71-62 lead after a 6-0 run.  But Golden State got back into it with their “new Big 3” of Mullin, Hardaway, and Owens leading the charge.

They cut it to 76-73 before a three-point play by Benjamin and a three-point shot by Pierce eventually led Seattle back to an 85-76 advantage.

While the scoring was fast-paced and the shooting was phenomenal, the officials also let the players play.  This didn’t always sit well, especially with the Seattle crowd, who seemed to goad George Karl into a technical foul with 3:41 left in the 3rd.

The Warriors out-scored the Sonics 15-10 over the last 3:41 of the quarter and cut the lead to 95-91 going into the 4th.  Kemp and Owens each had 4 fouls but stayed in the game.

McKey had been huge so far with 23 points through 3 quarters to lead the way, while Pierce, Johnson and McMillan helped.  But in the 4th quarter, the Warriors allowed Shawn Kemp to re-introduce himself (although not like the Reign Man and his dunks would in Game 4).

Kemp only had one slam in the 4th quarter of Game 3, but he was aggressive, got the the line, and, most importantly, made his free throws.

At first, Seattle regained a 112-101 lead with 6:33 left off shots from McMillan and Eddie Johnson.  McMillan took the playing time of Payton for most of the 2nd half, until a key final minute.

Chris Gatling then got a layup off a feed from Sarunas Marciulionis and drew Kemp’s 5th foul.  Despite missing the free throw, Gatling contributed huge off the bench with 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting.

But the Warriors’ biggest bench contribution came from Sarunas Marciulionis, especially in the 4th quarter after Elie fouled out.

A Marciulionis kickout to Hardaway for a three kicked off a 14-2 run (aided by a technical on Seattle assistant coach Bob Kloppenburg) to give the Warriors the lead.

During that run, Marciulionis routinely attacked the Seattle defense by going 1-on-1 into the lane and drawing fouls.  He hit 6 straight free throws and then got a breakaway layup after a steal by Hardaway.

Hardaway then gave the Warriors their 117-116 lead when he got by the defense with a stop-and-go dribble for a layup.  Karl used a timeout with 3:40 left.

The Sonics had gone small at this point as they had Kemp at center against Gatling.  The other matchups were McKey vs. Owens, Eddie Johnson vs. Mullin, Pierce vs. Marciulionis, and McMillan vs. Hardaway.

Pierce hit a leaner from the foul line.  Marciulionis hit two more free throws.  McKey hit a leaner from the baseline at the end of the shot clock.  Hardaway recovered a loose ball and hit a three to give Golden State a 122-120 lead.

With 2:16 left, Kemp hit two free throws to tie the game.  Mullin got a breakaway after Seattle missed on their next possession.  Then the Sonics got three shots on their following chance and Kemp drew a foul from Gatling and hit two more free throws with 1:15 left.  The game was tied at 124.

Karl then brought in Payton for defensive purposes.  But Gary would be involved in a key play that would set off the next 5 years for the Sonics.

After Mullin missed a corner jumper and McKey grabbed a loose ball rebound.  Payton pushed the ball on a 2-on-1 break.  Seeming to know exactly what to do, Payton threw a lob up for the Reign Man.

Kemp grabbed it high in the air and threw down a huge slam as Gatling gave a slight push for the foul.

Payton and Kemp would combine for many more over the next several years.

The three-point play gave Seattle a 127-124 lead with 58 seconds left.  Marciulionis then drove on Payton and drew a foul.  Sarunas hit two more free throws to finish with 12 4th quarter points.

Seattle then, perhaps inadvertently, realized what happened when they didn’t go to Shawn Kemp.  Pierce, McMillan, and Benoit Benjamin played hot potato with the ball and did not get off a shot before the 24-second buzzer.

Golden State called a timeout with 24.6 seconds left.  Marciulionis penetrated and found Gatling.  Gatling got the ball to Owens at the foul line.  Owens spun by Kemp into the lane and hit on a reverse scoop shot to give the Warriors a 128-127 lead with 7.5 seconds left.

Owens had more than proven his worth so far in the series, and was looking like the most aggressive of the new big three.  This point would be proven on the next Warriors possession.

Meanwhile, after a timeout, McMillan inbounded the ball right to Kemp.  Shawn drove immediately against Tyrone Hill, who Nellie put in the game in Gatling’s place, and drew a foul as Hardaway reached in with 6.1 seconds left.

Kemp was 10-for-13 from the line at this point.  The first one hit the front rim and bounced in.  The second one was as clean a swish as one could have.  Seattle led.  Golden State didn’t use a timeout.

Hardaway got the inbounds pass and dribbled all the way to the foul line.  Hardaway perhaps had a shot but kicked out to Mullin.  Mullin faked, dribbled, and looked to have a clean-ish shot.  But instead he passed off to Marciulionis, who airballed an attempt just as the buzzer sounded.

Seattle had survived after shooting 61.5% from the field for the day, but needing all of Kemp’s 12 free throws to win.

Golden State now needed to win Game 4 to stay alive two days after Mullin and Hardaway, who led the league in minutes in 1992, each played 46 minutes in Game 3.

Golden State starters (points scored)

Chris Mullin (24) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (15) – Power Forward

Alton Lister (7) – Center

Tim Hardaway (26) – Point Guard

Mario Elie (9) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Sarunas Marciulionis (27)

Chris Gatling (16)

Tyrone Hill (4)

Victor Alexander (0)

Vincent Askew (0)

Golden State Coach: Don Nelson

Seattle starters (points scored)

Derrick McKey (27) – Small Forward

Shawn Kemp (22) – Power Forward

Benoit Benjamin (12) – Center

Gary Payton (8) – Point Guard

Ricky Pierce (21) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Eddie Johnson (19)

Nate McMillan (11)

Dana Barros (9)

Michael Cage (0)

Tony Brown (0)

Seattle Coach: George Karl

April 29, 1992 – East Quarterfinals, Game 3: Chicago Bulls 119 @Miami Heat 114

In 1988, the Miami Heat became the first expansion team of 4 that would come into the NBA over the next two seasons.  In 1992, they became the first of those 4 expansion teams to make the playoffs.

After naming Detroit Pistons assistant Ron Rothstein as head coach, the Heat went into their first draft in 1988 with the 9th and 20th picks.  With the 9th pick, they selected Syracuse center Rony Seikaly.  With the 20th pick, they grabbed DePaul guard Kevin Edwards.  With their first 2nd round pick, the Heat grabbed rugged Eastern Michigan forward Grant Long.

Seikaly, Edwards, and Long started most of the games in 1989 (Edwards was their leading scorer at 13.8 points per game) as the Heat went 15-67.

With their 1st and 2nd round picks in 1989, the Heat selected Michigan’s Glen Rice (4th overall pick) and Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas.

Rice and Douglas made immediate impacts and Seikaly raised his averages to 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds to lead the Heat.  They went 18-64.

In 1990, the Heat drafted Minnesota forward Willie Burton with the 9th pick after trading the 3rd pick for two 1990 1st rounders (the second 1st round pick was Dave Jamerson, who would be traded along with 2nd round pick Carl Herrera to Houston for big man Alec Kessler, who had 4 uneventful seasons in Miami and died of a heart attack in 2007).

The Heat went 24-58 in 1991 as Edwards went to the bench (he and Burton averaged around 12 points while coming off the bench for most of the games).  Douglas, Rice, and Seikaly averaged over 16 a game.  But with all this young talent, Miami was giving up a lot of points and didn’t have a lot of veteran leadership.

Ron Rothstein resigned and veteran coach Kevin Loughery was named to the head spot.  Michigan State’s Steve Smith was drafted with the 5th overall pick.

Smith came in and played brilliantly at the point while Douglas held out for a new contract.  The Heat matched an offer for Douglas from the Lakers but were shopping him around and found a taker in Boston.  The price was Brian Shaw, who was struggling in Boston after an early-season injury.

Shaw continued to struggle in Miami as Bimbo Coles, acquired in a 1990 draft-day trade with Sacramento, started at the point.  Smith missed a month with arthroscopic knee surgery and Glen Rice was put at guard.

But at the All-Star break, Miami was right in the thick of the playoff race.  Rice, Seikaly, and Long were having stellar seasons (Rice broke out to 22.3 points per game on 47% shooting).  Smith, Burton, Coles, and Edwards were all averaging double figures.

But then Burton started missing some flights and was benched.  In early April, Burton sought treatment for depression and would miss the rest of the season.

A month earlier, Shaw cracked the starting lineup and the Heat had their playoff lineup of Shaw, Smith, Rice, Long, and Seikaly.  The Heat went 10-10 with that lineup to finish the season at 38-44.

But they qualified for the final playoff spot despite Atlanta having the same record.  But the Heat’s conference record was better than the Hawks, which won Miami the tiebreaker.  Their reward was a matchup against the 67-15 Chicago Bulls.

Chicago won the first 2 games without any trouble, and Miami set up a party atmosphere for their first ever home playoff game in Game 3.  The fans, who actually came out in droves and had energy, were given clackers.

The young Heat players were energized by the atmosphere and were flying around through the 1st quarter while Chicago was a step slow.

They forced turnovers and got out on the break.  As a result, the Heat took an early 13-5 lead and forced Phil Jackson to use a timeout at the 7:07 mark.

An 8-0 Heat run increased their lead to 21-7 as all five starters were aggressive.  The Heat took their biggest lead at 33-15 on a three-point play by Seikaly.  The Bulls cut it to 33-19 at quarter break.

Scottie Pippen had kept Chicago in it with 11 1st quarter points.  Michael Jordan had been “held” to 2 points.  But Jordan had seen enough.

He got going with back-to-back jumpers to cut the lead to 38-27.  MJ later blocked a Rice attempt that led to a breakaway three-point play by B.J. Armstrong.

Then Jordan made a three-point play in his own way.  He stripped the ball and dribbled coast-to-coast, which included a behind-the-back dribble and crossover, and dunked on 7’2″ Alan Ogg, while Ogg fouled him.

After that gem that only Jordan could provide, the Miami advantage was down to 41-36.  Jordan ended up scoring 14 points in the 2nd quarter, but Miami held that 5-point advantage at halftime at 56-51 after Smith nailed a three in the last few seconds.

Jordan then scored the first 6 points of the 2nd half to give Chicago the lead and force Loughery to use a timeout with 10:27 left.

MJ continued his assault with 20 points in the 3rd quarter to bring his game total to 38.  But much to the young Heat’s credit, they stayed with the Bulls and even took an 80-79 lead heading into the 4th quarter.

Jordan and Pippen weren’t getting much help so far from the others in terms of scoring.  But in the 4th quarter, two guards hit some key shots.

First, Craig Hodges (a forgotten man on the Bulls bench and soon to be forgotten in the NBA perhaps due to a letter he gave to President Bush when the Bulls visited the White House) hit two three-pointers to give Chicago an 89-84 lead.

Later, Jordan found B.J. Armstrong for a corner three that gave the Bulls the lead for good at 94-93.  Jordan followed with a coast-to-coast slam and Miami took a timeout with 6:43 left.

A three-point play by Coles, in which he split B.J. and M.J. on a drive, tied the game at 96.  But then Jordan hit a fall-away in the lane after getting a pass from Bill Cartwright.  Armstrong followed with a steal and Pippen got a breakaway.  Two free throws by Jordan capped a 6-0 run and gave the Bulls a 102-96 advantage.

The Heat didn’t fold and cut it to 104-101.  They had the ball too but Horace Grant came up with a steal.  Then Pippen found Armstrong, who was playing in John Paxson’s spot down the stretch, on a 2-on-1 break and B.J. made the layup while drawing the foul.

That and several Jordan daggers seemed to put the finishing touch on it.  Miami, again to their credit, didn’t give in.  But they missed some key free throws that could have made things more interesting.

The closest the Heat got was 117-114 after Shaw hit a long three.  But Jordan hit two free throws, after trash-talking with Smith and Shaw, to give him 56 points.

Jordan wasn’t going to lose a playoff game to expansion Miami.

Despite its talent, Miami would regress a bit in 1993 while two other expansion teams took up the spotlight and one advanced in the playoffs.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (31) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (8) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (1) – Center

John Paxson (2) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (56) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (13)

Craig Hodges (6)

Will Perdue (2)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Scott Williams (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Miami starters (points scored)

Glen Rice (25) – Small Forward

Grant Long (17) – Power Forward

Rony Seikaly (22) – Center

Brian Shaw (19) – Point Guard

Steve Smith (18) – Shooting Guard

Miami bench (points scored)

Bimbo Coles (9)

Kevin Edwards (4)

Keith Askins (0)

Alan Ogg (0)

Miami Coach: Kevin Loughery

April 30, 1992 – Golden State Warriors 116 @Seattle Sonics 119

The shooting percentages came back down to earth for Game 4.  The two teams, at times, looked like they had a semblance of a defense.

In the 1st quarter, that team would be the Warriors as Seattle missed shots they had made in Game 3 and Golden State pushed the tempo.

Tim Hardaway nailed a three and Mario Elie went coast-to-coast for a slam.  Elie would later get another breakaway and Billy Owens scored 6 points as the Warriors stayed ahead.

A 7-0 Tim Hardaway run made the score 22-13 Golden State.  Back-to-back baskets by Elie put the Warriors up 29-18.

Hardaway finished the quarter with 12 points while Elie and Owens each had 8.  But Seattle would get back into it when Eddie Johnson came off of George Karl’s bench and scored 10 points in the last 3 minutes of the quarter.

Nate McMillan also came in and settled the team down after Gary Payton was playing a bit out of control.  Seattle pulled back within 35-34 at the end of the 1st quarter.

The 2nd quarter would be characterized by a lot of free throws as both teams were playing physically but nothing got out of hand.

The Warriors went on a quick 6-0 run but Seattle got back into it.  Seattle’s surge would be highlighted by two Shawn Kemp dunks that have stood the test of time.

The first was when he got the ball at the top of the key with a wide open lane.  Kemp jumped, brought the ball back behind his head with the right hand, cradled it, and then tomahawked it over Alton Lister, who was trying to take a charge.

That slam gave Seattle a 48-47 lead.  They increased it to 55-50 but Chris Gatling sparked a 10-0 Warriors run to give them the lead.

Gatling then continued to play a spark as he blocked a McMillan shot on a drive.  But then Kemp got the ball and went up with Gatling.  Kemp powered the ball over Chris and drew a foul for the second big Kemp slam.

The three-point play cut the lead to 60-58, which would be the score at halftime.  Below are both Kemp slams:

Hardaway led Golden State with 17 points while Kemp had 17 and 12 rebounds at the half.  Shawn’s strong play, lost in the dunks, was continuing from the 4th quarter of Game 3.

Golden State opened the 2nd half on a roll as well.  Owens led the Warriors to a 68-60 lead and forced George Karl to use a timeout with 9:25 left in the quarter.

The Sonics brought Johnson and McMillan back into the game and this time McMillan sparked Seattle with 5 points in his team’s 10-3 run over the next 4 minutes to cut it to 71-70.

Payton later came back in and played a little more under control.  He found Johnson for a jumper to give Seattle a 76-75 lead.

The teams traded hoops as Elie and Sarunas Marciulionis sparked Golden State, while Payton had 4 assists and a field goal over the last 5 minutes of the quarter.

The last assist came in the last few seconds of the 3rd as Payton recovered a rebound and found Michael Cage for a layup to give Seattle an 88-86 lead heading into the 4th.

Seattle then pushed the lead out to 94-86 over the first minute and a half.  They would maintain a 105-96 advantage with 5:41 left as Payton, Pierce, and Johnson were playing splendidly.

Meanwhile, Golden State’s two stars were struggling.  Chris Mullin shot 4-for-12 for the game and sat in the final 5:41 with an ailing back that he hurt in the 1st quarter.  Hardaway was 8-for-29 from the field, 3-for-13 on threes, and, most surprisingly, 8-for-15 on free throws.

But Gatling, Elie, and Marciulionis would continue to play out of their minds.  Gatling put back a miss, Elie got a steal and breakaway slam, Marciulionis got a breakaway after a long pass by Elie, Marciulionis found Elie for a jumper in the lane, Marciulionis completed the 10-0 run with a breakaway scoop after a steal.  The Warriors were back in the lead at 106-105.

Pierce stopped the run with a breakaway three-point play off an assist from McMillan.  Hardaway nailed a high-arcing three at the end of the shot clock.  Kemp kicked out to McMillan for a jumper.  Owens recovered a loose ball and laid it in.

With 1:49 left, Marciulionis split two free throws and Golden State led 112-110.  Eddie Johnson tied it with a leaner in the lane.  With under a minute left, Hardaway drove and was fouled by McMillan.  He split the free throws as Golden State finished 25-for-39 from the line.  The Warriors still led 113-112 at this point.

But Pierce broke free from Elie and McMillan found him for a layup.  Seattle led 114-113 and Don Nelson used a timeout with 39.2 seconds left.

He went to Hardaway, who bricked a pull-up jumper in the lane.  Kemp rebounded and had the ball knocked away right to Payton.  Gary was fouled with 25.9 seconds left and made both free throws for a 116-113 Seattle lead.

After another Warriors timeout, Hardaway went for the tie but missed a three.  The ball kicked out to Elie, who missed what was a long two-point attempt (but may have been called a three because there was no replay at the time).  Kemp then grabbed his 20th rebound, to go with 21 points, and gave it to Payton.  Payton was fouled with 8.5 seconds left.

Payton split the free throws this time and Golden State gave themselves a chance when Marciulionis nailed a three with 4.6 seconds left.

Seattle used a timeout and got the ball to Pierce, a 92% foul shooter in 1992.  Pierce nailed both for a three-point lead.

Without any timeouts to spare, the Warriors last chance went by the wayside when Hardaway airballed a prayer from half-court.

Seattle had stunned the 55-27 Warriors and were moving on to the 2nd round.  After Kemp had seemingly come of age in Game 3, it was Gary Payton who would do the same in Game 4 with 11 2nd half points and 9 in the 4th quarter.

This series victory by Seattle would turn out to be the only playoff series in 1992 in which the lower seeded team won, and each team went the opposite way in the future.

Seattle, despite a 4-1 loss to Utah in the next round, would go on to bigger things with Kemp and Payton leading the way.

Golden State would win one playoff series over the next 20 seasons and would not get as many as 55 wins until 2015, when the Warriors’ long string of frustration vaporized.

Unfortunately, by 2015, no basketball team was residing in Seattle.  Something made all the more painful by seeing the crowd’s passion that was evidenced in these latest two wins against Golden State.

Golden State starters (points scored)

Chris Mullin (11) – Small Forward

Billy Owens (21) – Power Forward

Alton Lister (4) – Center

Tim Hardaway (27) – Point Guard

Mario Elie (22) – Shooting Guard

Golden State bench (points scored)

Sarunas Marciulionis (17)

Chris Gatling (14)

Tyrone Hill (0)

Victor Alexander (0)

Vincent Askew (0)

Golden State Coach: Don Nelson

Seattle starters (points scored)

Derrick McKey (10) – Small Forward

Shawn Kemp (21) – Power Forward

Benoit Benjamin (3) – Center

Gary Payton (15) – Point Guard

Ricky Pierce (27) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Eddie Johnson (26)

Nate McMillan (11)

Michael Cage (6)

Seattle Coach: George Karl

May 3, 1992 – East Quarterfinals, Game 5: Detroit Pistons 87 @New York Knicks 94

After blowing a chance in Game 3, Detroit survived elimination in Game 4 as Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas had their best games of the series.

On the contrary, New York didn’t seem to come out with the intensity that they had in the 3rd game.  Now the Knicks were playing a deciding game at home for the first time in 18 years.

But the home team had the same dry periods in the 1st quarter of Game 5.  Detroit scored 6 of the first 8 points before New York seemed to right themselves with a 7-0 run.  During that run, Charles Oakley was called for another flagrant foul against Dennis Rodman.  This time, Rodman missed the two free throws.

However, the Knicks then went 4+ minutes without scoring while Detroit ran off 11 straight points.  New York then cut it back to one with another 7-0 run.

The Pistons led 23-19 at the end of the 1st quarter as Isiah Thomas scored 6 points on 6 free throws.

The scoring slowed down in the 2nd quarter as Detroit got one field goal in the first 8 minutes.

New York took as much as a 5-point lead as rookie Greg Anthony sparked them off the bench with 5 points and an assist.

Late in the quarter, double technicals were called on Rodman and Anthony Mason.  This would perhaps prove to be a bigger factor when, in the 4th quarter, it looked like the referees were about to put another technical on Mason but pulled back.

Mason would prove to be a big factor as Charles Oakley was slowed with a hip pointer that he injured in the 1st quarter.  New York led 38-35 at the half.

Through the first 7 minutes of the 3rd quarter, Detroit scored more points than they had in the 2nd quarter and led 51-48.

A three-point play on a putback by Xavier McDaniel tied the game.  Dumars responded with his own three-point play (on, really, a prayer of a shot in the lane that he only attempted when he heard the whistle) and drew the 4th foul on a struggling John Starks.

Starks had hit his first shot of the game and then missed his next 10.  This forced Pat Riley to go to a struggling Gerald Wilkins, who the Knicks would end up releasing before the start of the next season.

But Wilkins hit some big shots, especially in the 3rd quarter, as New York went on an 8-0 run.  His biggest came with 1.1 seconds left in the 3rd when he recovered an offensive rebound and hit a pull-up from the baseline to give New York a 63-58 lead heading into the 4th.

It continued as a three-point play by Wilkins on a lefty drive down the lane put New York up 68-60 and drew Bill Laimbeer’s 4th foul.

Isiah Thomas kept Detroit in it as the Pistons cut the lead to 2 points twice.  But they were held off by jumpers from McDaniel and Patrick Ewing, who was scoring his points but struggling from the field.

Ewing later put back a missed free throw from Anthony to give the Knicks a 79-72 lead with 5 minutes to go.  Mason got a three-point play (after a second technical was almost called on him) on a putback and Greg Anthony drew Isiah’s 4th foul after getting a steal.

The Knicks grabbed their biggest lead when Ewing kicked out to Starks, who broke his drought with a three from the top to give New York an 87-76 advantage with under 2 1/2 minutes to go.

But Isiah wasn’t done, and brought back memories of the last time he played the Knicks in a do-or-die Game 5:

Isiah hit a three after Dumars grabbed an offensive rebound.  Then John Salley got a piece of a Ewing jumper and Isiah hit another three to cut it to 87-82.

But it wasn’t to be this time as Starks scored off a baseline drive.  Ewing later blocked a three-point attempt by Isiah and then jammed home a missed free throw by Mark Jackson to put the game on ice.

For the first time since 1986, the Detroit Pistons were eliminated before the Eastern Conference Finals.  Their next playoff game would be played in 1996 with only Joe Dumars remaining.  Their breakup began with Chuck Daly resigning his coaching post two days after this game and eventually being hired by the New Jersey Nets to replace Bill Fitch.  This came after Daly coached the U.S. Olympic team in the summer of ’92.

For the Knicks, they were on to play the Bulls.  They had been eliminated by Chicago 2 of the previous 3 seasons, but with Pat Riley and the Knicks new physical nature on board, the rivalry basically began with this next series.

Detroit starters (points scored)

Dennis Rodman (2) – Small Forward

Orlando Woolridge (12) – Power Forward

Bill Laimbeer (8) – Center

Isiah Thomas (31) – Point Guard

Joe Dumars (12) – Shooting Guard

Detroit bench (points scored)

Mark Aguirre (7)

John Salley (13)

Darrell Walker (2)

Detroit Coach: Chuck Daly

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (19) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (0) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (31) – Center

Mark Jackson (7) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (13) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (10)

Anthony Mason (5)

Greg Anthony (9)

Kiki Vandeweghe (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

May 4, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 2: Boston Celtics 104 @Cleveland Cavaliers 98

The Boston Celtics came into the playoffs on an 8-game winning streak.  All of those 8 wins came without Larry Bird, who was trying to come back one final time from his back issues.

The success continued in the first round of the playoffs as Boston swept an Indiana team that had taken the Celtics to 5 games the previous season.  The biggest surprise was John Bagley, who was scoring big highlighted by a 35-point effort in Game 2 against the Pacers.

It all came back down to earth in Game 1 at Cleveland.  The Cavaliers destroyed the Celtics 101-76, out-scoring them 33-14 over the last quarter and a half.  Robert Parish struggled with 4 points and 3 rebounds before going out with an injury in the 3rd quarter.

Brad Daugherty had 26 points and 17 rebounds while Larry Nance had 24 and 9.  For the millionth time in the last 6 seasons, the Celtics looked done to everybody.

But back they came in Game 2 as both teams pushed the tempo over the first 6 minutes.  It set the stage for the rest of the game in which both teams shot over 50%, although the game slowed down after those first 6 minutes.

Parish opened quickly with a hook shot in the lane.  Reggie Lewis followed with a steal and breakaway.

Parish later answered a 5-0 Cleveland run with a pull-up from the baseline.  Then after Craig Ehlo, who was back in the starting lineup after recovering from a late-season knee injury, nailed a three, Bagley pushed it right back up and found Ed Pinckney for a layup.

Bagley would push it twice more in transition and blow by Mark Price for two layups, which shouldn’t happen considering how slow Bagley was at this point of his career, but he was getting it done so far in the playoffs.

However, after a 7-0 Cleveland run that forced Chris Ford to use a timeout at the 5:48 mark, Boston slowed it down to play their style.  Cleveland was up 17-14 at this point.

Boston went on an 8-2 run after the timeout and finished the 1st quarter at 68% shooting from the field.  But they only led 30-27 despite Lewis scoring 10 points and Parish 8.  Kevin McHale hit a foul-line jumper at the buzzer after Bagley penetrated to give the Celtics their lead.

Cleveland opened the 2nd quarter on a 10-0 run as Boston had to use two timeouts over the first 3 minutes.  Cleveland kept the lead for the rest of the quarter with balance but Parish and McHale kept the Celtics within range.

Parish had 14 points at halftime while McHale had 10, 8 of them in the 2nd quarter.  Lewis had 12 points at the half while Daugherty had 13 for Cleveland and Price had 10.

The Cavaliers led 55-54 with Boston shooting 63% from the field and Cleveland 58%.

The 3rd quarter went back-and-forth as Parish led Boston to a lead with 7 points in the first 7 minutes of the quarter.  Lewis contributed 5 more before picking up his 4th foul and sitting with Boston up 69-66.

Daugherty scored 7 more points in the 3rd and John Battle hit a scoop in the lane with 1.3 seconds left in the quarter to give Cleveland a 76-75 lead entering the 4th and give Battle 12 points off the bench.

Boston opened the 4th quarter on a 6-0 run as their inside people (McHale, Pinckney, and Parish) were dominating Cleveland’s big front line (The Cavaliers only out-rebounded Boston by one).  Parish continued to be the key as he, at one point, hit 9 consecutive shots from the field.

His 9th consecutive field goal and 27th point gave Boston a 91-82 lead with 5:48 left and forced Lenny Wilkens to use a timeout.  Parish had made himself effective in this game by making himself available in the post and for outlets when another Celtic penetrated.

Cleveland was not effective in keeping their man in front of them at the perimeter, which was the start of their normally great defense looking ineffective and giving up a high shooting percentage to Boston.  Parish and McHale were also winning the position battles down low and getting the ball in the post.

Price brought Cleveland back to within four points with a three-pointer and two free throws, but Cleveland would be held at bay by McHale, Bagley, and Lewis.

The Reggie Lewis daggers would be the biggest, as he hit one pull-up at the end of the shot clock, grabbed an offensive rebound and hit two free throws with 1:50 to go, and then connected on a baseline jumper at the 1:14 mark to put Boston up 103-93 and effectively ending the game.

The old Celtics had come back to life and stolen one in Cleveland by shooting 59% for the game from the field.

This wouldn’t be the last that Cleveland saw of Reggie Lewis in this series and, in a few games, they would get some help from one, Larry Bird.

Boston starters (points scored)

Kevin Gamble (6) – Small Forward

Ed Pinckney (12) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (27) – Center

John Bagley (11) – Point Guard

Reggie Lewis (26) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (18)

Sherman Douglas (4)

Joe Kleine (0)

Boston Coach: Chris Ford

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Mike Sanders (4) – Small Forward

Larry Nance (14) – Power Forward

Brad Daugherty (22) – Center

Mark Price (20) – Point Guard

Craig Ehlo (8) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Hot Rod Williams (12)

John Battle (14)

Steve Kerr (4)

Cleveland Coach: Lenny Wilkens

May 5, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 1: New York Knicks 94 @Chicago Bulls 89

There was some question whether former Bull Charles Oakley would be as physical with Chicago as he was against Detroit.

It was answered early when he neck-tied Bill Cartwright on a drive to the hoop and was called for a flagrant foul.

Before this happened, New York had taken a 4-0 lead in Game 1 when Gerald Wilkins hit two jumpers on kickouts by Patrick Ewing and Phil Jackson had already used a timeout.

Cartwright missed both free throws and the Bulls didn’t get on the board until the 9:56 mark of the 1st quarter.  Chicago also missed 8 of their first 9 shots.

But New York could not take advantage early on and Chicago had it tied at 16 with around 3 minutes to go in the 1st quarter.  But then Scottie Pippen picked up his 2nd foul and Jackson took out Michael Jordan for his normal rest at the end of the 1st quarter.

So for a rare time, the Bulls didn’t have either Pippen or Jordan on the court and New York took advantage.  John Starks hit a pull-up from the baseline after it looked like he pushed off on John Paxson.  It wasn’t called and Paxson disagreed with the non-call enough to pick up a technical.

Phil Jackson picked up another technical later in the 1st as free throws from Starks built a lead.  Then Greg Anthony hit a fall-away three to give New York a 25-16 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.

Chicago’s struggles were personified when Will Perdue missed 4 straight free throws late in the 1st quarter.  Perdue would not play for the rest of the game and his playing time diminished in favor of Scott Williams as the playoffs went along.

More than anything though, New York’s defense was swarming in the 1st half as Chicago went through an 8-minute stretch (even with Jordan and Pippen back on the floor) with only 1 field goal.

The problem was that the Knicks couldn’t take advantage of it as their offense struggled.  They maintained a lead for the rest of the half but it never got to be bigger than 44-32 with a minute and a half to go in the 1st half.

Ewing was 3-for-11 and only had 6 points at halftime but he did have 3 blocks.  Xavier McDaniel was also the beneficiary of some Ewing feeds as he scored 12 points.

Pippen and Jordan brought Chicago back to within 46-38 at the half as both teams shot 39% from the field in the 1st half.

One figured Chicago would get it going on both ends for a stretch and that New York had to be ready for it.  It happened early in the 3rd as Chicago cut it to 52-46 at the 9:08 mark and forced Pat Riley to use a timeout.

Riley had to do it again 29 seconds later when Pippen blocked a shot and Paxson drove for a layup.  It didn’t help much as the crowd and the Bulls defense was getting into it.

Pippen cut it to 52-50 on a lefty floater in the lane.  Ewing then made a big play that got him going.  He faced up on Cartwright at the baseline, drove by him with a crossover, and slammed one down.

The Knicks were able to hold off Chicago for this stretch as Greg Anthony hit a big three at the end of the shot clock and also drove down the lane for a score.

But Jordan just kept coming.  A fall-away in the post over Starks gave MJ his 8th point of the quarter and 20th of the game to cut New York’s lead to 61-60.

But Ewing put back a miss and later hit three baseline jumpers as New York built a 73-64 advantage heading into the 4th quarter.

Ewing hit two more jumpers early in the 4th to give the Knicks a 79-69 lead.  At this point, Chicago had gotten no production from their bench.  But the reserves sparked a rally.

Scott Williams hit a baseline jumper.  Craig Hodges finished a 3-on-1 break.  B.J. Armstrong hit a pull-up jumper at the end of the shot clock and then another tough shot from the wing.

Two free throws by Jordan after Ewing picked up his 4th foul gave the Bulls their first lead of the game at 80-79 at the 5:53 mark.  Jordan then crossed over on a drive down the lane and finished with a lefty banker for a three point Bulls lead.

But Ewing ended a 13-0 Bulls run and a 5+ minute Knick drought with a turnaround jumper from the baseline.  On New York’s next possession, Ewing didn’t get the ball until he was outside at the top of the key with the shot clock running down.  He still hit the jumper at the buzzer to give New York an 83-82 lead.

Jordan and Ewing traded baskets over the next few minutes as each team traded leads.  Chicago tied it at 87 with 1:13 to go when Jordan made a free throw.

New York got two chances on their next possession and Ewing cashed in on the second chance with 33.8 seconds left when he hit a running jumper while going across the lane.  Ewing was now 11-for-14 from the field in the 2nd half after his struggles in the 1st half.

Chicago didn’t use a timeout and went right to Jordan.  As had been the case for most of the game, Jordan was bottled up in the lane.  He kicked out to Pippen, who was long on a jumper from the left corner.

Ewing rebounded and was fouled by Horace Grant with 13.4 seconds left.  Ewing hit both free throws.  The Bulls got another chance when Pippen put back a Jordan miss and then Mark Jackson split his free throws with 4.1 seconds left.

But Jackson’s miss came on the 2nd free throw and Ewing grabbed the rebound.  He was fouled with 1.1 seconds left and hit both free throws to clinch the game after 28 2nd half points.

The Knicks had heard that they were going to get swept by the Bulls in this series.  Chicago had won 14 consecutive games against New York dating back to 1990 and 17 consecutive at Chicago Stadium dating back to 1987.

But New York had a 1-0 series advantage after one of Patrick Ewing’s best playoff performances (and maybe this was the best when all was said and done).

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (16) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (4) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (34) – Center

Mark Jackson (6) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (6) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (12)

Greg Anthony (10)

Anthony Mason (4)

Kiki Vandeweghe (2)

James Donaldson (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (22) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (9) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (6) – Center

John Paxson (12) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (31) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (4)

Scott Williams (3)

Craig Hodges (2)

Will Perdue (0)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

ewing-92

Patrick Ewing led New York to a Game 1 upset in Chicago with 28 2nd half points *photo courtesy of Getty Images

May 7, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 2: New York Knicks 78 @Chicago Bulls 86

It looked for much of the night that Chicago would cruise.  Not many would have blamed the Knicks.  Their last 4 games against Detroit were hard fought and they had gotten a hard fought win in Game 1 in Chicago.

One would think the Bulls would come back strong and New York would be too emotionally drained to respond, at least that’s what TNT analyst Doug Collins thought.

But early on, New York stayed with a hotter shooting Chicago team.  John Paxson hit three wing jumpers and Scottie Pippen hit a runner in the lane.

But, led by 6 early points from Xavier McDaniel and back-to-back baskets by Gerald Wilkins and Mark Jackson, the Knicks tied it at 12 with 5:48 left in the 1st quarter and forced Phil Jackson to use a timeout.

From there, Michael Jordan got going as he was determined to go down low against John Starks and get some baskets.  At one point, MJ scored 15 straight Chicago points as the Bulls took the lead.

Jordan had 17 1st quarter points.  But, led by Jackson, New York stayed within range as both teams had a hot shooting 1st quarter.  The Bulls led 27-24 at the end of the quarter.

B.J. Armstrong opened the 2nd quarter with a three-pointer as Chicago’s bench got involved much earlier than they did in Game 1.  But the Bulls went scoreless for the next 4 minutes and the Knicks bench gave them a 32-30 lead with 7:33 left.

But then New York went cold and only had 2 field goals for the rest of the 1st half.  Chicago’s bench pushed them on a 7-0 run, despite Cliff Levingston almost getting the Will Perdue disease from Game 1 by missing 4 straight free throws (Levingston missed his first 3 before making one).

Armstrong and Scott Williams were positive factors.  Even Perdue came in and did some good things after his nightmare of Game 1 (Perdue’s only basket would be taken away at the end of the half when his putback came after the buzzer, despite it initially counting).

Meanwhile, New York’s biggest problem was a combination of not getting Patrick Ewing the ball and when Ewing got the ball, he wasn’t as aggressive as he was in Game 1.  Ewing only had 5 field goal attempts in the 1st half and, although the Bulls were a bit more aggressive in double teaming, seemed to be content with getting the ball back outside to his wing players.

The Knicks also had 10 first half turnovers, which obviously didn’t help.  There also was the Michael Jordan factor as MJ hit two more turnaround jumpers in the post and was, at one point, 10-for-13 from the field with 21 points.

But MJ would go cold and miss his last three field goal attempts of the 1st half.  Pippen also would never get going as he finished 2-for-12 from the field.

With that backdrop, Chicago only held a 46-37 halftime lead after Perdue’s basket was taken away.

Both teams drudged along in the 3rd quarter with Chicago continuing to hold the lead.  New York had 9 more turnovers in the 3rd and Starks picked up fouls number 4 and 5.

But the only positive factor for the Bulls was that Horace Grant got going a little bit with 6 points, including a tip-in with 0.8 seconds left in the 3rd to give Chicago a 64-54 lead heading into the 4th.

Jordan and Pippen struggled in the 2nd half (Pippen for the entire game) and the biggest factor was that neither got a dunk or clean layup in the first 2 games of the series.  New York was continuing to do a great job of clogging the lane and forcing the Bulls to shoot outside shots.

Patrick Ewing finally got going and was aggressive in the 4th quarter to lead New York back.  Ewing hit three baseline jumpers to cut Chicago’s lead to 71-66 with 6:56 left as Jackson had to use a timeout and the crowd started to murmur some concern.

A field goal and two free throws from Anthony Mason cut the lead to 73-70 before Jordan hit his 2nd field goal of the 2nd half.  Then B.J. Armstrong got a steal from a struggling Greg Anthony, who had gotten lots of playing time down the stretch for Pat Riley in a lot of the playoff games so far.

Armstrong dribbled it down court against Anthony on a fast break and found a trailing Horace Grant for a slam that got the crowd going and forced Riley to use a timeout with 4:12 left.

But New York stayed in it as Chicago struggled from the foul line.  Ewing hit four straight free throws and then, after Jordan went 0-for-2 from the line, cut the Bulls lead to 79-78 with a deep baseline jumper with 2:03 left.

The Bulls were beyond concerned and Starks even had enough irrational confidence to yell to Doug Collins on the TNT crew that they were going to win this game.

The Bulls ran down the shot clock and Jordan found Armstrong outside.  B.J. went to the foul line and hit a pull-up jumper as the clock expired.

Then after Ewing was called for an offensive foul trying to get position against Bill Cartwright down low, the Bulls ran down the shot clock again.  And, again, the ball ended up in the hands of Armstrong.

B.J. this time went baseline and hit a pull-up as the clock expired to give Chicago an 83-78 lead with 25.7 seconds to go.

Jordan then stole a Starks pass to Anthony and the Bulls sealed up the win.  Armstrong had been a HUGE factor shooting 7-for-10 from the field and hitting two big field goals when the Bulls needed it.

But it was looking like, as the series went to New York, the Bulls couldn’t exactly look past the Knicks.

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (15) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (3) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (16) – Center

Mark Jackson (10) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (8) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (6)

Anthony Mason (13)

Kiki Vandeweghe (5)

Greg Anthony (2)

Kennard Winchester (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (6) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (14) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (2) – Center

John Paxson (10) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (27) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (18)

Scott Williams (8)

Cliff Levingston (1)

Will Perdue (0)

Craig Hodges (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

May 8, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 3: Cleveland Cavaliers 107 @Boston Celtics 110

Despite being back on their home court, the Celtics wouldn’t shoot nearly as well as they did in Game 2 (In fact, Cleveland would have the high shooting percentage at 57%).

Boston, who was without Larry Bird for one last game, would hit their first two shots and then miss their next 8.  Cleveland took a 17-8 lead when Mark Price scored 8 points by stepping back against the trap and hitting jumpers.  Price also threw a beautiful half-court lob pass to Larry Nance for a reverse slam.

After Chris Ford used a Boston timeout with 4:01 left, the Celtics went on a 10-0 run to take the lead with 1:37 left in the quarter.  The Cavs came out on top at the end of the 1st quarter, 22-20.

Cleveland took an early 8-point lead in the 2nd quarter.  But Boston stayed in the game thanks to their bench and to their offensive boardwork.  Kevin McHale had 11 2nd quarter points against good defense from Hot Rod Williams, who forced McHale to use three moves to get a shot off in the low post.

A bigger factor turned out to be Dee Brown.  Brown had been bitten by the flu bug late in the season and lost his starting spot to John Bagley and his backup spot to Sherman Douglas.  But Brown hit a jumper for his first points of the series and, later, got a breakaway slam after a block by McHale.

Boston would come back to tie it at 48 at halftime when Ed Pinckney grabbed Boston’s 10th offensive rebound of the 1st half, scored and drew a foul for the three-point play.

McHale led Boston with 15 points while Price had 15 for Cleveland.  But, for Boston, Bagley was 1-for-7 from the field and Robert Parish was 0-for-6, although he made up for it on the boards and with defense against Brad Daugherty, holding him to 5 points.

Daugherty got going a little bit in the 3rd with 9 points.  But the game would be back and forth until Cleveland grabbed a 5-point lead with a 6-0 run.

Nance would get going in the last 5 minutes of the 3rd as he scored 7 of his 9 points for the quarter to keep Cleveland ahead.  The Cavs would be up by as much as 7 and would lead 83-79 going into the 4th.

Cleveland would continue to lead early in the 4th but Boston stayed within range.  After Nance picked up his 5th foul, Parish hit a baseline jumper after another offensive rebound (Boston would have 21 for the game and Parish had 9 of them) for his first field goal.

The Cavs lead was cut to 91-89 at that point and a timeout was taken with 6:50 remaining.

After Price hit two free throws immediately following the timeout, Pinckney drove down the lane for a banker and Brown, who got the 4th quarter minutes for a struggling Bagley, hit a pull-up from the top.

Hot Rod Williams then committed his 5th foul on an offensive foul and another timeout was used with 5:50 left and the game tied at 93.

From there, it would be the Reggie Lewis show for Boston.  He hit two jumpers and Parish hit a turnaround.  But Cleveland, led by Price, matched them and tied it at 99.

But Lewis followed with a pull-up from the elbow while drawing the 5th foul from Mike Sanders, who was guarding Lewis for much of the stretch.  That three-point play put Boston up by three.

Lewis followed with a banker in transition after Brown pushed the ball.  The Celtics now led 104-99 with 3:09 left and Cleveland used a timeout.

Both teams then traded baskets for the next few possession, which meant Boston led 108-103 with 1:44 left after Lewis hit for his 13th point of the quarter with a pull-up in the lane after a spin.

With 1:31 left, Brown committed his 6th foul and Price hit two free throws to cut the lead to 108-105.  The Celtics then ran down the shot clock and McHale hit a tough turnaround jumper from the baseline to make it 110-105.  McHale then grabbed a defensive rebound after two Cavalier misses and the game looked like it was curtains.

But Daugherty rebounded a Bagley miss at the end of the shot clock and Craig Ehlo hit a pull-up from the foul line with 13.5 seconds left to cut the lead to three.

The Celtics then passed the ball around to avoid getting fouled.  It went brilliantly at first but then Nance deflected a pass with 3 seconds left and Ehlo came up with it.

The Cavs had a timeout left but in the haste of the play (and not knowing how much time was left), Ehlo just threw up a prayer that was nowhere close as the buzzer went off.

Boston had now won 13 of their last 14 games and had a 2-1 lead against Cleveland with Larry Bird coming back for Game 4.

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Mike Sanders (7) – Small Forward

Larry Nance (19) – Power Forward

Brad Daugherty (22) – Center

Mark Price (27) – Point Guard

Craig Ehlo (15) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Hot Rod Williams (11)

John Battle (6)

Steve Kerr (0)

Henry James (0)

Cleveland Coach: Lenny Wilkens

Boston starters (points scored)

Kevin Gamble (10) – Small Forward

Ed Pinckney (17) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (11) – Center

John Bagley (2) – Point Guard

Reggie Lewis (36) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (22)

Dee Brown (10)

Joe Kleine (2)

Sherman Douglas (0)

Boston Coach: Chris Ford

reggie lewis

Reggie Lewis was having a breakout playoff series against Craig Ehlo and Cleveland.  Unfortunately, this would be the last playoff series Lewis appeared in.  Photo courtesy of ebay

May 9, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 3: Chicago Bulls 94 @New York Knicks 86

The Knicks had put concern into the Bulls minds in the first 2 games.  They took the first game and nearly the second.  But their physical defense had made an impact and now they were going back to Madison Square Garden for games on back-to-back days.

But, true to their championship metal, the Bulls came out aggressive in Game 3.  They started by pressing and trapping all over the floor and throwing double teams at Patrick Ewing.  On offense, they hit 10 of their first 12 shots from the field.

Scottie Pippen looked sprier after his struggles in Game 2 (due perhaps mostly to an injured ankle, although the Knicks defense probably helped too).

Pippen hit 2 of his first 3 shots, both jumpers, while Michael Jordan hit his first 4 shots.  This included Jordan’s first dunk of the series when he got a steal from Mark Jackson off the trap and went in for a breakaway reverse slam.

After a three-pointer by John Paxson with 2:46 left in the 1st, the Bulls led 29-17 after a 16-4 spurt.

The Bulls led by as much as 13 in the 1st quarter, helped by 12 points from Jordan, but New York cut it to 32-23 at the end of the quarter.

The Knicks then managed to hang around in a much lower scoring 2nd quarter (as the game got back to New York pace).

But the Bulls still ed 48-39 late in the quarter when Michael Jordan got another chance for a breakaway slam after Chicago won a jump ball on their end.

Yep, home movie style and you got to look at it twice!  After not getting a chance to slam in the first two games, maybe Jordan forgot how, right??

The Knicks gained the momentum from the missed slam and finished the half on an 8-0 run to cut the Bulls lead to 51-50 at halftime.

Jordan still had 19 points in the 1st half while Pippen had 12.  Ewing was held to 8 points as Chicago’s defense was surrounding him.  Charles Oakley and Gerald Wilkins actually led New York with 11 1st half points.

The Knicks then took a quick lead in the first minute of the 3rd quarter when Mark Jackson hit a pull-up from the top and then found Ewing with a behind-the-back pass for a baseline jumper.

But the scoring slowed down considerably over the rest of the quarter.  There’d be one field goal scored by either team over the next 4 minutes.

Chicago got some help from its bench as Cliff Levingston put back his own miss and got a three-point play out of it at the 6:19 mark to give Chicago a 57-56 lead.  Will Perdue later put back a miss as well.

The Knicks also got a bench assist as John Starks nailed a three at the 2:41 mark to tie the game at 61.

But the Bulls finished the quarter on a 10-3 run to take a 71-64 advantage heading into the 4th.  Jordan had 9 more points in the quarter for 28 overall.

For the 3rd straight game, Ewing (who was getting a rest during the Bulls rally late in the 3rd) got going in the 4th quarter as he’d score 13 of his 27 points.  But he’d turn out to be the Knicks only offense (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

Ewing made two straight jumpers to cut the lead to 73-68.  But two jumpers by Pippen, including a three, increased the Bulls lead back to 78-68.

The Knicks would not be able to sustain any rally as, for the first time in the series, they got no production from Xavier McDaniel, Anthony Mason, or Greg Anthony.

Chicago countered all Patrick Ewing rallies.  And the 4th quarter would be personified by a highlight in which Jordan seemed to be telling the Knicks what they could do with their physical play.

It started on a rebound scramble when the ball found Jordan at the left wing.  Jordan then drove to the basket and slammed into Ewing, trying to take a charge.  Meanwhile, while Jordan was in the air, McDaniel slammed into him.  This caused MJ to land kind of awkwardly, awkwardly enough that people have torn knee ligaments landing like this.

MJ scored and drew the foul as McDaniel fell into Ewing.  As the two Knicks were on the ground, Jordan stood over them and yelled something that wasn’t very nice to them.

That three-point play gave the Bulls an 87-77 lead with 4:21 left and Jordan went to the bench briefly with a bloody nose.

After Ewing made back-to-back baskets, Pippen knocked down a killer three at the end of the shot clock to give Chicago a 90-81 lead with 2:42 left.

New York would score one field goal the rest of the way as Ewing got only one shot attempt and Chicago survived to take a 2-1 lead.

But the Bulls would have to play the Knicks again in just over 24 hours.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (26) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (10) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (7) – Center

John Paxson (5) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (32) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (0)

Will Perdue (6)

Cliff Levingston (3)

Craig Hodges (3)

Scott Williams (2)

Stacey King (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (11) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (13) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (27) – Center

Mark Jackson (8) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (13) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (9)

Greg Anthony (5)

Anthony Mason (0)

Kiki Vandeweghe (0)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

May 10, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 4: Cleveland Cavaliers 114 @Boston Celtics 112 (OT)

Larry Bird was back for Boston.  But he didn’t start for this game as the Celtics were rolling, having won 13 of their last 14 games.

They started out well in Game 4 as Reggie Lewis hit his first 4 shots, including a three.  Ed Pinckney also continued his strong contribution and Robert Parish got two field goals after not getting one until the 4th quarter of Game 3.

Boston led 21-14 when Mark Price and Brad Daugherty led a 6-0 Cavs run to bring them right back.  Another 6-0 Cleveland run gave them a 26-25 lead late in the 1st quarter before a baseline drive and reverse layup by Lewis, for his 13th point, gave Boston the lead entering the 2nd quarter.

Mark Price was off to an aggressive start for Cleveland with 6 points and 6 assists in the 1st quarter.  Price kept the Cavs in it for the early part of the 2nd quarter when Boston seemed to get an emotional lift from Bird entering the game for the 1st time.

Bird would hit his first shot attempt but otherwise looked a step slow after being out for a month.

Cleveland got good play from rookie Terrell Brandon off the bench (who would make Steve Kerr expendable in the off-season, but he was still a year away from finding his way onto the Bulls).  That coupled with Reggie Lewis getting a rest, contributing to a Celtics drought, gave Cleveland a 48-43 lead with 3:46 left.

Larry Nance would then finish the half strong as the Cavaliers expanded their advantage.  A three-pointer by Price at the buzzer gave Cleveland a 63-51 halftime lead.  Nance had 16 points, including 6 in the final 3:46.  Daugherty also had 16 and Price 13.  Lewis had 19 for Boston.

The lead stayed at 12 for the first 3 minutes as a struggling Kevin Gamble picked up his 4th foul.  Rick Fox, playing for the first time since Game 1, came into the game to replace him and contributed with hustle and a three-pointer, but he committed 4 fouls in 5 minutes trying to stop Nance.

Nance scored 8 more points in the 3rd quarter as Cleveland held off Boston’s first run that started when Daugherty picked up his 4th foul.  The Celtics, led by Lewis, made a late run in the 3rd to cut the Cavs lead to 83-80 entering the 4th.

Boston continued its surge as they went on a 6-0 run to take an 88-85 lead with 9:56 left.  It was a 4th quarter run that had won them Game 3 and they pushed their current advantage to as much as 5.

But Cleveland stayed with them as they matched the Celtics basket-for-basket through a long stretch while slowing down Reggie Lewis, who had 1 field goal in the final 11 minutes of regulation and through overtime.

Price completed the Cavs comeback with his 22nd point on a lefty drive down the lane to give Cleveland a 99-98 lead with 2:41 left.  But they didn’t score for the next minute and a half as Boston took a 103-99 lead on a jumper from John Bagley.

But Price came right back with a running banker in the lane.  Then with under a minute to go, Nance blocked a shot by Parish and Pinckney fouled Hot Rod Williams on the rebound scramble.

With 29.3 seconds left, Williams made both free throws to tie the game.  He’d get a chance to win it after Nance rebounded a miss by Lewis and Price pushed the ball for a 2-on-1 break with Hot Rod.

Bird was the only one back and had to foul Williams to stop a layup with 8.2 seconds left.  But for seemingly the first time all game, the Cavs got rattled by the crowd as Williams bricked both free throws.

Parish rebounded and Bird pushed the ball and got it to Lewis.  Lewis airballed an attempt at the buzzer with Craig Ehlo draped all over him (Jordan made THAT shot with Ehlo all over him).  Both Lewis and Bird felt Ehlo should have been called for a foul but the game went on into overtime.

Cleveland took the early advantage in overtime as Price hit a jumper and Nance hit two more.  Boston was down 109-104 with 3:40 left and had to use a timeout.

But the Cavs wouldn’t score over the next 2 minutes and a turnaround fall-away by Kevin McHale (who was having another great game off the bench) cut the lead to 109-107.  McHale missed a chance to tie it though as he missed a scoop shot after a great baseline spin.

On the other end, McHale had a key rebound taken away from him by Williams and Nance connected on a jumper to break the drought.

Boston missed another chance to tie when Lewis split two free throws and Cleveland led 111-110 with 42.9 seconds left.  Nance then found Daugherty on a cut for a layup.  Bagley followed with two free throws before Daugherty split his pair with 14.7 seconds left.

Boston had a final chance to tie with their big three in the game along with Lewis and Bagley.  Lewis penetrated and dropped off to Bird, who missed a driving banker as it looked like he was fouled.  Lewis got the rebound and airballed a shot as it looked like he was fouled (best though, make the players play through it in the final seconds).

Finally, Bagley got a third chance but Mike Sanders blocked his shot at the buzzer and Cleveland had their first playoff win in Boston (they were 0-6 previously) and had tied the series at 2.  It was also Cleveland 4th all-time road playoff victory, and the 2nd in 1992.

Cleveland rode this huge win in Boston to blowout wins in Game 5 & 7 to advance in the playoffs and bring an end to Larry Bird’s career.

Bird was moved to the starting lineup for Game 6 and had 16 points and 14 assists (including 8 and 7 in the 1st quarter) to lead Boston to their only remaining victory in Bird’s last playing appearance at Boston Garden.

Bird’s retirement started the end of Boston’s dominant reign over the NBA.  After the 1993 season, the Celtics lost two more key players (one tragically) and would compete in one more playoff series until 2002.

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Mike Sanders (9) – Small Forward

Larry Nance (32) – Power Forward

Brad Daugherty (20) – Center

Mark Price (26) – Point Guard

Craig Ehlo (1) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Hot Rod Williams (18)

Terrell Brandon (6)

John Battle (2)

Cleveland Coach: Lenny Wilkens

Boston starters (points scored)

Kevin Gamble (4) – Small Forward

Ed Pinckney (10) – Power Forward

Robert Parish (16) – Center

John Bagley (8) – Point Guard

Reggie Lewis (42) – Shooting Guard

Boston bench (points scored)

Kevin McHale (23)

Larry Bird (4)

Dee Brown (2)

Rick Fox (3)

Boston Coach: Chris Ford

nance vs bird

Larry Bird’s return would not re-vitalize the Celtics as Larry Nance and co. proved to be too much of a matchup problem for Bird, in the final moments of his career, and the Celtics *photo courtesy of Getty Images

May 10, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 4: Chicago Bulls 86 @New York Knicks 93

For New York, in giving back home court advantage in Game 3, they had lost all the hustle stats in the 4th quarter and Patrick Ewing had not gotten the ball down the stretch when the Knicks couldn’t buy a field goal.

The Knicks were also chastised by coach Riley for losing all the hustle stats down the stretch, most notably getting out-rebounded by 10 in the 2nd half (New York was the league’s leading team on the boards during the season).  New York was also 11-for-22 from the line.

For Game 4, there would be none of that as the Knicks played with renewed intensity and gave the most help for Ewing, who would have a subpar game.

New York took an early 10-4 lead that was aided by a Phil Jackson technical.  Xavier McDaniel, who disappeared in Game 3, had 6 of those points.

But Chicago came back with an 8-0 run capped by a Pippen alley-oop to Jordan.  The teams would battle back and forth in a high-scoring (for this series) 1st quarter.  McDaniel and Gerald Wilkins each had 8 points as the Knicks took a 27-25 lead entering the 2nd quarter.

Jordan had 10 1st quarter points and continued piling them on early in the 2nd.  But he would be Chicago’s only offense for a stretch while John Starks and Anthony Mason powered New York’s attack off the bench.

The Knicks took a 40-33 lead and forced Jackson to use a timeout with 6:45 left.  At this point, Jordan had all 8 of Chicago’s 2nd quarter points and Starks nearly matched him with 7 in the quarter.

But over the next minute and a half, Chicago went on a 7-0 run to force Riley to use a timeout.  The surge extended to a 10-1 Bulls rally before Starks hit another jumper.

Starks would finish with 11 2nd quarter points but 20 from Jordan and 10 from Horace Grant powered Chicago to a 49-47 halftime lead.

Ewing and Pippen both struggled in the 1st half.  Although each was aggressive, Ewing finished 1-for-8 with 3 fouls and Pippen was 1-for-6.

It would be more of the same in the 3rd quarter.  Ewing eventually put together two straight field goals before picking up his 4th foul and heading to the bench with Chicago up 59-57.

But the Bulls couldn’t take advantage as Jordan went out briefly with a sprained ankle and never really recovered for the rest of this game.  It was also Chicago’s turn to struggle from the line as they finished the game 17-for-29 while New York came back with a 26-for-35 effort.

The free throws and New York’s aggressive defense with McDaniel, Mason, and Oakley in the front court and Starks with Greg Anthony in the back court kept them in the game with Ewing on the bench.  It also drove Phil Jackson to frustration as veteran referee Dick Bavetta called a second technical on Phil and threw him out with time running out in the 3rd quarter.

Jackson walked out waving to the derisive New York crowd and Jim Cleamons took over.  Chicago led 67-66 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The 4th quarter would be all New York and it was led by non-superstars (in other words, people other than Patrick Ewing).

It started when McDaniel recovered a loose ball (a hustle stat that the Bulls won in the 4th quarter of Game 3) and found Starks for a breakaway reverse slam.

Starks then found Mason for a baseline jumper.  On the next possession, McDaniel came over the back of Cliff Levingston to grab an offensive rebound.  McDaniel then hit a jumper while drawing a foul.  The X man followed with two more field goals to keep New York ahead.

The Knicks were also surged on by the New York crowd, who was noted for being louder than it had been since the glory days of the ’70’s.  This was mostly according to Phil Jackson, who would know having played on those ’70’s teams.  Jackson had said the Game 3 crowd was as loud as he had heard New York in a while.  The Game 4 crowd seemed to take it to another level.

Ewing had come back in and made a crucial wing jumper at the end of the shot clock to give the Knicks a 79-72 lead.  Jordan did his best to keep Chicago in it but had no lift on his jumper, thanks in large part to the sprained ankle he was playing through.

A breakaway three-point play by Wilkins gave the Knicks an 84-75 lead.  A three-point play by Jordan, in which he drew Ewing’s 5th foul, cut the lead to six but would be MJ’s final points of the day.

Wilkins tipped in a Ewing miss to make it 86-78.  The Bulls final rally came when B.J. Armstrong got a steal and a breakaway three-point play to cut the lead to 86-82.

But Ewing followed with a turnaround fall-away in the post and Chicago would not score another field goal until the last second.

New York had come up big as McDaniel and Wilkins took over the 4th quarter, and Starks and Mason were huge off the bench.  Ewing had struggled with a 5-for-16 effort but hit two big shots in the 4th quarter to out-last Chicago.

Believe it or not, I won’t write about every game in this series.  The next two would be more of the same.  Jordan had 26 of his 37 points in the 2nd half of Game 5 as Chicago used a late spurt in win and take a 3-2 lead.  New York then out-scored Chicago 32-16 in the 4th quarter of Game 6 to win going away, holding Jordan to 3 points in the 4th quarter and Pippen scoreless.

It was now down to a 7th game for the Bulls and Knicks.  A 67-win season for the defending champion Bulls was now down to one game.  The Knicks were one game away from their biggest victory since winning the championship in 1973.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (13) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (13) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (6) – Center

John Paxson (6) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (29) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (11)

Scott Williams (3)

Craig Hodges (3)

Will Perdue (2)

Cliff Levingston (0)

Stacey King (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (24) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (8) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (15) – Center

Mark Jackson (3) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (17) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (16)

Anthony Mason (7)

Greg Anthony (3)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

May 11, 1992 – West Semifinals, Game 4: Portland Blazers 153 @Phoenix Suns 151 (2OT)

Now that we’re in the West, nobody will mistake this series as New York/Chicago.  Portland would have a 42-point 1st quarter by missing only 4 shots from the field and both teams would be in the 100’s after 3 quarters.

Despite winning this game for their 3rd close win of the series, there were still signs that the Portland Trailblazers self-destructed in close games.  It was something that dogged at them all season despite having the best record in the West.

Mainly for this game, it would be free throws.  But Portland announcer Steve “Snapper” Jones was quick to point out on how there were times Phoenix players didn’t seem to want to shoot in clutch situations.

For the 4th straight season, Phoenix won 50-plus games.  But for the 3rd straight season, they finished 3rd in the Pacific Division.  They had bombed out in the 1st round in 1991 with Xavier McDaniel as their key forward.

McDaniel would be traded to New York for Jerrod Mustaf and Trent Tucker.  Tucker would be waived in November as Phoenix had a log-jam at guard.

Kevin Johnson had averaged 20+ points and 10+ assists in the last 3 seasons and had been an All-Star in 1990 & 1991.  But KJ’s scoring numbers dipped a bit to 19.7 points per game while the scoring numbers of shooting guards Jeff Hornacek and Dan Majerle climbed to what would turn out to be career-highs.

Hornacek averaged just over 20 points per game while shooting 51% from the field.  Majerle, as Phoenix’s 6th man, averaged 17.3.  Both guards would be All-Stars in 1992.

The front court would be more of the problem to Phoenix, even though there was enough there that Mustaf couldn’t crack the rotation for soon to be retiring Cotton Fitzsimmons (at least until his replacement, Paul Westphal, was fired in 1996).

Tom Chambers’ scoring dipped to a career-low of 16.3 points per game and by the time Phoenix reached Game 4 versus Portland, Chambers wasn’t starting and was fueding with Fitzsimmons over playing time.

The Suns had athletic Tim Perry and Andrew Lang, who brought energy but Perry’s 6.9 rebounds per game led the Suns.  Phoenix was also in the middle of the pack defensively, giving up 106.2 points per game (it probably didn’t help that their best defensive player, Mark West, was relegated to Andrew Lang’s backup at center).

Phoenix also had 2nd year forward Cedric Ceballos, who would start in all 8 playoff games as his minutes rose by 12 per game from the regular season (up to 23.5 per game) and his scoring reached double figures.

The Suns also had wide body Ed Nealy and journeyman backup point guard Steve Burtt.  Both would be in the game at the end of Game 4 due to several Suns fouling out.

Portland had won the first 2 games in the City of Roses as Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler dominated down the stretch.  Phoenix won Game 3 as Hornacek had 30 points and Perry 27.

The 4th game showcased hot shooting (or no defense) early on.  A three-point play by Drexler, off a Porter feed, gave Portland a 20-17 lead at the 6:18 mark of the 1st quarter.

Portland then went on a run with Porter, Drexler, and Jerome Kersey nailing jumpers to take a 42-29 advantage at the end of the 1st quarter.

Phoenix stayed in it in the 2nd quarter as Tom Chambers played his way out of the doghouse for a bit.  Chambers had 17 points in the quarter and his last jumper cut Portland’s lead to 71-65 with 2.5 seconds left in the half.

The last 2.5 seconds may have been the longest in NBA history as an inbounds pass went to Porter, who immediately threw a long pass to Danny Ainge for a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Drexler led Portland with 18 points while Chambers had 19.

Ainge would get 10 more points in the 3rd quarter to bring his total to 20 but Phoenix, led by Majerle, got back into the game and took the lead late in the quarter.  But a technical by KJ helped Portland regain a 104-100 lead after 3 quarters.

KJ did lead Phoenix back to tie it at 106.  Then Hornacek got a steal and Thunder Dan Majerle slammed it go give the Suns the lead again and force Rick Adelman to use a Portland timeout at the 9:46 mark.

The Trailblazers regained the lead for a bit before the Suns went on a 9-3 run to take a 125-120 lead with 2:26 remaining.  The Suns also had the ball at this point.

But a missed jumper by Majerle and a missed tip-in by Hornacek started a Phoenix drought that was characterized by main players looking like they didn’t want to shoot.  Chambers followed that in Phoenix’s next possession by throwing an airball.

Meanwhile, Kersey and Cliff Robinson hit jumpers to cut the lead to one.  Portland then had a chance to take the lead but KJ stole a kickout pass from Drexler to Porter.  KJ was fouled with 38.6 seconds left to stop a layup.  Johnson hit both free throws to give Phoenix a 127-124 lead.

But after a timeout, Porter drove baseline and drew Andrew Lang’s 6th foul while making a tough shot.  The three-point play tied the game with 33.6 seconds left.

Phoenix didn’t use a timeout and KJ tried to drive and dish.  But Cliff Robinson stole his kickout pass and Portland went for the last shot while not using a timeout.

They got a good one as Porter pulled up for an open wing jumper.  The ball bounced off the rim and over the backboard with 4.6 seconds left and Phoenix had a final chance after a timeout.

But after the inbounds pass, Chambers and Majerle gave up potential shot attempts and Phoenix didn’t get one off.  The game was headed to overtime.

Portland got the first two buckets before Cliff Robinson fouled out.  Phoenix came back with KJ finishing on two impressive drives down the lane (including a big slam from the 6’1″ guard).

The teams battled to the final minute.  Porter missed a key free throw and Phoenix would lead 138-137 after KJ made two from the line.  But Drexler rebounded a missed three from Ainge and gave it back to Danny for a jumper from the top that gave Portland a 139-138 lead with 34.2 seconds left.

After a timeout, Portland came out with Drexler on KJ.  KJ still tried to drive but missed a layup and Kersey rebounded.  Chambers then picked up his 6th with 27.5 seconds left.

The Portland broadcasting team was nervous with Kersey at the line in a clutch situation.  He made 1 of 2.  But the Blazers looked like they were in the clear when Drexler came off of Johnson and stripped the ball away from Hornacek on a drive.  Porter took a long pass and was fouled by KJ with 8.4 seconds to go.

Porter was an 85% foul shooter in 1992 and was the least-likely candidate to fall for the Portland jinx despite missing a free throw a minute earlier.  But that went out the window when he pulled a string and came up way short on the 1st free throw.  Porter missed the second as well and Nealy (who had come in for a fouled out Tim Perry earlier in overtime) rebounded.  Phoenix used a timeout with 7.9 seconds left, down 140-138.

KJ then attacked Drexler 1-on-1 and forced Clyde back on his heels.  KJ then connected on a step-back jumper to tie the game with 2.7 seconds left.  Portland used a timeout.

The Suns would actually have a chance to win after Ceballos stole an inbounds pass to Drexler.  But Cedric pulled a string and airballed an attempt from half-court.  The game was headed to a 2nd overtime.

Phoenix was dealt a blow 11 seconds into the 6th period as KJ picked up his 6th foul.  Steve Burtt had to come into the game.  Burtt was seeing his first critical playoff action as he had been getting plenty of tryouts with NBA teams since back in 1984, but he only stuck on with a team in the 1985 and 1988 seasons before getting a chance in Phoenix.

It didn’t start out well as Burtt was blocked by Drexler on a driving layup.  But Portland couldn’t take advantage either as Drexler was called for an offensive foul on a drive with the Blazers leading 146-144.

Hornacek then connected on a three after an offensive rebound by Majerle.  Kersey then missed two free throws and Burtt made a big play by finding Ceballos for a layup to give the Suns a 149-146 lead with 1:15 left.

But then Drexler made two free throws.  Kevin Duckworth rebounded a miss by Hornacek and was fouled by Ceballos on a reach-in with 43.6 seconds left.  Duckworth was a 69% foul shooter and seemed like a sure candidate to fall for the Portland jinx.

But wouldn’t you know it? Duckworth made both shots.  After a Phoenix timeout, Majerle connected on a pull-up banker with 27.3 seconds left to give the Suns the lead.

Portland went to Drexler after a timeout.  He missed on a drive but the rebound kicked back to Duckworth, who was fouled by Mark West with 10.7 seconds left.

Again, the 7’0″ 275 lb center made both shots with his soft shooting touch.  Phoenix called a timeout and the ball ended up in Steve Burtt’s hands.  Burtt got off a good shot on a driving pull-up.  The ball went in-and-out, literally.  Drexler went over the back of Hornacek and tipped the ball to Porter, who was fouled with 3.6 seconds to go.

Porter split the free throws and Phoenix got a final chance with 2.3 seconds left.  Majerle took a return pass on the inbounds but bricked a long three and Portland survived.

The Blazers won more convincingly in Game 5 to close the series.  Portland then blew out Utah in the 1st 2 games at home in the Western Conference Finals.  But, again, the Blazers had to win some close games to close out a series against another team that had a propensity of coming up short in the clutch.

For Phoenix, a new direction would be had for the next season.  Not only would Cotton Fitzsimmons be replaced by assistant Paul Westphal as coach but the Suns got a superstar.

On June 17, 1992, Phoenix traded Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang to Philadelphia for Charles Barkley.  Both Barkley and Phoenix would be rejuvenated for 1993.

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (21) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (11) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (14) – Center

Terry Porter (31) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (33) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Cliff Robinson (16)

Danny Ainge (25)

Ennis Whatley (2)

Alaa Abdelnaby (0)

Robert Pack (0)

Mark Bryant (0)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

Phoenix starters (points scored)

Cedric Ceballos (19) – Small Forward

Tim Perry (7) – Power Forward

Andrew Lang (13) – Center

Kevin Johnson (35) – Point Guard

Jeff Hornacek (23) – Shooting Guard

Phoenix bench (points scored)

Dan Majerle (21)

Tom Chambers (29)

Mark West (0)

Steve Burtt (2)

Ed Nealy (2)

Phoenix Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons

May 17, 1992 – East Semifinals, Game 7: New York Knicks 81 @Chicago Bulls 110

The New York Knicks had done the unthinkable.  They had pushed the Chicago Bulls to a 7th game and now were perhaps on the brink of ending Chicago’s season, which was one of the best in NBA history.

Through the previous 3 games, Xavier McDaniel and Gerald Wilkins had stepped up their production to provide help for Patrick Ewing in the scoring department.  Then John Starks got 27 off the bench in Game 6.

There was also the Knicks defense that had worn Chicago down.  Michael Jordan’s numbers had dropped slightly while everyone else’s on the Bulls dropped dramatically.

But there were some factors that would help Chicago other than Game 7 being at Chicago Stadium.  Ewing had sprained his ankle in Game 6, although he was able to return to help the Knicks out-score Chicago 32-16 in the 4th quarter.  There was also the fact that for the first time since the series started, the teams would get two days off between games.

It was particularly noted how Chicago and Michael Jordan looked tired at the end of Game 6 and it didn’t help that the first 6 games were played in a span of 10 days.

As expected, the Bulls came out aggressively in Game 7.  Jordan and Scottie Pippen repeatedly drove to the basket.  Jordan, in particular, came out to attack.  He hit two early turnaround jumpers from the post and Pippen penetrated to find Horace Grant for a slam.

But New York also got off to a 4-for-4 start from the field and took a 9-8 lead.  It would be their last lead of the game.

Pippen and Jordan went on coast-to-coast drives to give Chicago a 15-10 lead and force Pat Riley to use a timeout.

Jordan continued his attack as he hit 5 of his first 7 shots from the field and scored 18 points in the 1st quarter.  He also would get in the face of Xavier McDaniel when the X-Man was being physical with Pippen.  MJ and the X-Man each drew a technical.

New York managed to stay within range at 30-25 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Although Ewing had 7 points in the 1st, it was noted how he wasn’t getting as much lift on his jumper.  He also had no rebounds until the 2nd quarter.  Both were signs that the ankle may have been a factor, although Ewing wouldn’t add any excuses.

The Knicks managed to continue staying in the game despite Jordan’s continued attack.  The Bulls would also get bench help from B.J. Armstrong and Craig Hodges, who each hit key jumpers in the 2nd quarter.

But Starks and Mason also provided a spark as New York didn’t let Chicago’s lead grow to more than 11.  They also finished the half on an 8-2 run to cut the Bulls lead to 56-51.  Jordan led the way with 29 points but no other Bull was in double figures.

While the Knicks were close, there was one big thing that differentiated this game from the rest.  The scoring was higher, meaning Chicago was playing at their tempo for the first time in these 7 games.

The Bulls would score the first 4 points of the 3rd quarter, but New York responded with the next 6 as they cut Chicago’s lead to 60-57 and forced Phil Jackson to use a timeout at the 9:01 mark.

But then Chicago’s defense stepped up to championship level as New York missed their next 6 shots and didn’t score a field goal for the next 5 minutes and 12 seconds.

Jordan, Pippen and Grant were flying all over the floor and Cartwright was making it tough on Ewing, even drawing an elbow for Ewing’s 4th foul.

The biggest defensive play has been shown on highlights ever since May 17, 1992.  After Jordan split two defenders and hit a double-pump banker, MJ stole the long inbounds pass.  But then Starks reached in and got it to McDaniel, who had a breakaway.  Jordan hustled back and knocked the ball away from the X-Man and out of bounds before a layup could happen.

After this sequence, B.J. Armstrong went 1-on-1 and hit a pull-up three at the end of the shot clock to give Chicago a 70-59 lead and force Riley to use a timeout at the 4:04 mark.

Jordan would score 7 points in the 3rd, including a left-handed reverse after a quick baseline spin in the post, to bring his total to 36.

Armstrong would hit one more pull-up at the end of the shot clock and also found Stacey King on a 2-on-1 break for a three-point play.  Chicago grabbed a 79-64 lead at the end of the 3rd and didn’t look back.

Jordan had another spin and the post and a lefty layup finish while bumping into Ewing, for no call.  Pippen also completed a banker while driving into Ewing.

The closest the Knicks got was 13 points and missed some key shots that they had made in previous games that could have helped cut into the lead.

But Chicago kept their foot on the gas pedal and seemed bent on humiliating the Knicks, almost to a point that went too far.

Pippen stayed in the game until the end and finished with a triple-double.  Stacey King nailed a three in the final 10 seconds when Chicago could have (and perhaps should have) run out the clock.  Cliff Levingston then stole the inbounds pass and took a jumper while Mark Jackson fouled him.  He made a free throw as Chicago scored 4 points in the last 10 seconds that they didn’t need.

But the Bulls would be in for a tough series with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who would blow them out twice including a 107-81 drubbing in Game 2 at Chicago Stadium.

The Bulls would also see more of the New York Knicks, although only two starters would return for Pat Riley in 1993.

New York starters (points scored)

Xavier McDaniel (14) – Small Forward

Charles Oakley (4) – Power Forward

Patrick Ewing (22) – Center

Mark Jackson (10) – Point Guard

Gerald Wilkins (7) – Shooting Guard

New York bench (points scored)

John Starks (18)

Anthony Mason (4)

Greg Anthony (0)

Kennard Winchester (2)

New York Coach: Pat Riley

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (17) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (14) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (5) – Center

John Paxson (2) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (42) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (12)

Craig Hodges (7)

Stacey King (8)

Scott Williams (2)

Cliff Levingston (1)

Will Perdue (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

jordan mcdaniel

A lasting image of Game 7 and the Bulls/Knicks series from 1992 was Michael Jordan getting in the face of Xavier McDaniel *photo courtesy of YouTube

May 22, 1992 – Western Finals, Game 3: Portland Blazers 89 @Utah Jazz 97

Terry Porter was scalding hot for the first 2 games as Portland blew out the Utah Jazz, who were making their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals.

Porter was 8-for-12 in Game 1, including 6-for-8 from three-point land.  He bettered it in Game 2 with a 12-for-14 performance, including 4-for-5 on threes.

That, along with Portland holding down Karl Malone, was the key catalyst in Portland winning the first two games with two impressive performances.

But now was the key test as Portland was 1-and-12 in their last 13 Game 3’s.  They were also going to the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, where it could be argued that the Utah fans were the loudest of that era.  But, more importantly, the Jazz had the best home record in the NBA during the season at 37-4 and were 6-0 in the playoffs.

The Jazz had their holdover stars, but Karl Malone and John Stockton were starting to get criticized for early playoff exits.  This was Utah’s 3rd ever Division title and they had won 1 playoff series in the first two seasons they won the Midwest Division.

Since 1987, they had lost 3 series in which they had home court advantage.  Twice, this included the 5th and deciding game of the 1st round in which the Jazz lost to Golden State in ’87 and to Phoenix in ’90 in Utah.  But 1989 was their most embarrassing as they followed a division title by getting swept by Golden State.

In 1991, they put that label behind them a bit when they defeated Phoenix in the 1st round without home court advantage.  But they lost to Portland 4-1 in the Semifinals.

Utah had some more holdovers other than Malone, Stockton, and coach Jerry Sloan.  7’4″ Mark Eaton had been there since 1982 and forward Thurl Bailey had been around since 1983.  Dr. Dunkenstein, Darrell Griffith, had been there since 1980.

But, at age 32, Griffith lost most of his playing time in the back court to Jeff Malone, who had been an underrated star in Washington and now was Utah’s 2nd leading scorer.  Griffith would be released near the end of October and never played another NBA game.

Bailey would be traded to Minnesota early in the season for Tyrone Corbin.  Corbin’s versatility and hustle on both ends helped the Jazz out and won him over with the fans as he had traded for a popular player.

Third year forward Blue Edwards started along with Stockton, both Malones and Eaton for the regular season as Utah finished at 55-27.  But 6’8″ 220 lb free agent rookie David Benoit came on against the Clippers and was a huge factor in the 5th and deciding game in Utah (the first time the Jazz won a deciding game since 1985).

Sloan decided to start Benoit instead of the 6’4″ 200 lb Edwards against a big, athletic Seattle team in the next round.  It worked as Utah defeated the Sonics 4-1 but Edwards was inconsistent off the bench as it took awhile to get used to his new role.  Edwards would be re-thrusted into the starting lineup later in the Portland series.

But for now, Edwards was on the bench along with Corbin, Mike Brown (a big man who hustled and did all the dirty work), and unheralded point guard Delaney Rudd (who would be a hero later in the series).

The teams went back and forth in the 1st quarter as the Mailman got 10 points for Utah and Clyde Drexler had 8 for Portland.  The Trailblazers led 25-22 at the end of the quarter but something was different and apparent.

The game tempo had slowed down from the first 2 games and this favored Utah, who ran a quintessential half-court offense anchored by the Stockton-Malone pick-and-roll, as well as Malone flashing to the post after a shooting guard or forward set a screen down low and Stockton finding the Mailman for a layup.

Portland, in particular Porter, wasn’t shooting as well either.  Porter had three nice drives but couldn’t hit an outside shot.  But a Utah drought early in the 2nd quarter helped Portland gain a 39-31 lead halfway through the quarter.

The Blazers were able to hold off a Utah run to lead 51-43 at the half.  Jerome Kersey had 14 points, including 10 in the 2nd quarter.  Drexler and Karl Malone also had 14 each.  But Stockton was held to 3 assists in the 1st half.

Kersey and Drexler then led the Trailblazers to a 57-47 lead with 9:46 left in the 3rd when Sloan used a Utah timeout.  During this break, analyst Doug Collins praised the Blazers for their poised play so far on the road.

Could it be that a Portland team that was known to self-destruct pull off an impressive road win while playing Utah’s tempo against a Jazz team that had lost only 4 games so far in Utah that season?  Not so fast.

Malone kicked out to Corbin for an elbow jumper.  Then Stockton found Malone off a screen-down cut for a layup.  The Mailman then found Eaton on a cut for a layup.  Stockton followed by finding Malone for a baseline jumper.

In a span of less than 2 minutes, Utah had gone on an 8-0 run and Rick Adelman had to use a Portland timeout.  Just like that, the Blazers were back to the impatient team that had a noticeable lack of poise.  It didn’t get better for the rest of the game.

Karl Malone got Buck Williams and Mark Bryant into foul trouble and scored at will.  The Mailman had 13 points in the 3rd quarter, including a three-point play with 2:49 left that gave the Jazz their first lead since the 1st quarter.

The Jazz led 71-69 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Portland managed to tie it at 73 when Drexler found Cliff Robinson for a cutting tip-in on a lob pass.

But then Malone hit two free throws and followed by finding Blue Edwards with a long pass for a slam.  Malone then kicked out to Mike Brown for a wing jumper as Utah took a 79-73 lead and Portland called timeout with 7:57 left.

Malone would score 6 points over the next 2 1/2 minutes to bring his total to 37 at that point.  But the Jazz could not put Portland away.

The Blazers pulled to within 91-87 with just over 2 minutes left when Kevin Duckworth hit a hook shot in the lane.

But, on a cut, Stockton found Malone for a lefty layup for the Mailman’s 39th point, including 25 in the 2nd half.  Portland could not score as Kersey ran into Mark Eaton on a drive and missed badly.  Kersey then fouled Eaton on the rebound and big Mark, a 60% foul shooter in 1992, made two from the line to give Utah a 95-87 lead.

Then after Portland inbounded the ball, Drexler dribbled it off his foot.  Corbin followed with a wing jumper to put the game away and get Utah back into the series.

The Jazz would tie the series by winning Game 4 at Portland’s tempo, 121-112.  But, more urgently, Portland further lost their composure by the end.  They had 5 technicals called against them and Clyde Drexler was ejected with 1:30 to go in a still winnable game with his second technical.

For Utah, Karl and Jeff Malone had 33 and 28, respectively.  Stockton had 18 and 15 assists (after finishing Game 3 with 10 dimes) while Blue Edwards got more used to his new role and scored 16 after a good effort in Game 3.

But the Jazz would have to deal with some unfortunate circumstances (that were not self-inflicted, like Portland’s unfortunate circumstances in Game 4) when they returned to Portland for Game 5.

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (26) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (2) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (8) – Center

Terry Porter (13) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (26) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Cliff Robinson (8)

Danny Ainge (6)

Mark Bryant (0)

Robert Pack (0)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

Utah starters (points scored)

David Benoit (2) – Small Forward

Karl Malone (39) – Power Forward

Mark Eaton (5) – Center

John Stockton (14) – Point Guard

Jeff Malone (11) – Shooting Guard

Utah bench (points scored)

Blue Edwards (7)

Tyrone Corbin (8)

Mike Brown (11)

Utah Coach: Jerry Sloan

May 26, 1992 – Western Finals, Game 5: Utah Jazz 121 @Portland Blazers 127 (OT)

The Utah Jazz would be dealt a blow before Game 5 when David Benoit went back home following the death of his father.  Benoit was 6’8″ and would be missed in matchups against Jerome Kersey and Cliff Robinson.

The two teams played evenly for the first few minutes with Blue Edwards in Benoit’s spot in the starting lineup.  But then Portland ran off a 10-0 run to go up 18-8.  All 5 Blazer starters hit field goals and Portland was hustling to several offensive boards.  The Blazers were also aggressive defensively in keeping John Stockton from penetrating.

The big man, usually Buck Williams, jumped out and trapped Stockton on every pick-and-roll and took away his space and sight.

The Blazers led by as many as 12 in the 1st quarter and were ahead 32-22 at the end of the quarter.

Portland continued to lead through the 2nd quarter and stretched its advantage to as much as 14.  But Utah got a spark from its shortened bench as Tyrone Corbin scored 17 points in the 1st half to keep the Jazz in range.

Stockton was eventually able to penetrate and find people for 10 1st half assists.  Utah went on a 13-2 run to cut the lead to 46-43 before Terry Porter hit two jumpers.

The Blazers would lead 60-52 at the half but disaster struck Utah in the last second.  Clyde Drexler was driving the length of the court for the last shot of the half.  As he went up, the ball was stripped from him.  But in his follow through, Drexler accidentally struck Stockton in the eye.

Stockton was down on the court for several minutes and had to be helped to the locker room.  The report after halftime was that the muscles around the eye and the ones controlling the eyes opening and movement were swelling and there was some close-range double vision.  Not surprisingly, Stockton was out for the rest of the game.

Portland kept its lead at the same margin for the first half of the 3rd quarter.  Kersey led the way with 19 points while Kevin Duckworth had 16.

The Blazers led 73-64 when Utah made its move.  Corbin lobbed to Karl Malone for a three-point play and then Karl got a breakaway slam.  Corbin followed with another jumper and the Mailman got another three-point play to cut the Blazers lead to 75-74.

While it seemed like a clear advantage to Portland without Stockton, they perhaps took too much of an advantage and relaxed on defense.  The aggressiveness they had come out with in the 1st quarter was not there while Utah, with Delaney Rudd out there, had increased its aggressiveness.

Rudd was a 4th round pick of Utah out of Wake Forest in 1985.  But Delaney didn’t play his first game with the Jazz until November 8, 1989.  Between those times, Rudd played in the CBA and in Greece.  But he found a role as John Stockton’s backup.  But now he was thrust out there in the biggest game of Utah’s franchise history to that point.

Portland stemmed Utah’s initial tide as Porter and Drexler nailed threes.  But an 8-2 Utah run to finish the 3rd quarter ended up tying the game at 84 heading into the 4th.

The Jazz then took a 90-86 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the 4th.  Karl Malone had 16 points in the 3rd quarter and looked a helluva lot more aggressive without Stockton.

Portland quickly tied it and then took a 94-92 lead on Kersey’s 23rd point.  The teams went back and forth as the Mailman got 6 early points in the 4th.  Portland was starting to experience its trouble at the foul line as Porter went 1-for-4 during a short stretch.

Utah took a 102-99 lead on a wing jumper by Jeff Malone.  But Kersey came right back with a runner and Porter hit a wing jumper to give Portland the lead with 2:14 left.

Kersey later hit two big free throws for a three-point lead.  While Portland went on this run, a sight that would become familiar to Utah fans as the decade went on happened on their offensive end.  Karl Malone had lost his 3rd quarter aggressiveness and was settling for jumpers.  He missed several during this key stretch.

A jumper by Corbin cut Portland’s lead to 105-104 but the Jazz had a 24-second violation with 19.4 seconds left on the clock.  Rudd fouled Porter with 13 seconds left and, this time, Terry made two free throws.

Utah did not use a timeout and Rudd dribbled up court, came off a Karl Malone screen, and nailed a three from the right wing to tie the game with 5.5 seconds left.  Rudd was an unsung hero for the moment and even impressed Portland enough that they signed him in January of 1993 for the rest of the season, his last in the NBA.

Portland was able to get a seemingly good shot as Duckworth’s attempt from the top went in-and-out.  But the officials ruled the shot came after the buzzer and wouldn’t have counted.

Portland took a quick lead in overtime as Karl Malone continued to miss key shots.  Drexler took control over the last 3 minutes to put the game away.

First, he drove down the lane for a score at the end of the shot clock.  He then found Duckworth for a baseline jumper.  Finally, he found Buck Williams for a slam at the end of the shot clock.

Williams got another slam off a Kersey feed to give the Blazers a 121-114 lead.  The Jazz made a late run as Malone finally hit some shots but 6 free throws by Danny Ainge put the game away.

Portland was 8-0 at home in the playoffs and would out-score Utah by 12 in the 2nd half of Game 6 to give the Jazz their first home playoff loss of 1992, as well as eliminate the Jazz.

Incredibly, Utah shot 9-for-40 in the 2nd half of Game 6 and were held to 38 points in losing 105-97.  Stockton was back and played 45 minutes but shot 5-for-19 from the field and 1-for-8 on threes.

Portland was one series away from either silencing its critics who criticized their late game composure, or from never living it down with their greatest meltdown during their reign on top of the West.

Utah starters (points scored)

Blue Edwards (8) – Small Forward

Karl Malone (38) – Power Forward

Mark Eaton (4) – Center

John Stockton (6) – Point Guard

Jeff Malone (23) – Shooting Guard

Utah bench (points scored)

Tyrone Corbin (28)

Mike Brown (6)

Delaney Rudd (8)

Bob Thornton (0)

Utah Coach: Jerry Sloan

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (29) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (11) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (24) – Center

Terry Porter (24) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (24) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Cliff Robinson (6)

Danny Ainge (9)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

kersey vs utahJerome Kersey led the way for Portland in their Game 5 victory over Utah with 29 points.  The Jazz players looking on are John Stockton (#12), Tyrone Corbin (#23) and Jeff Malone (cut off on right side) *photo courtesy of Getty Images

May 29, 1992 – Eastern Finals, Game 6: Chicago Bulls 99 @Cleveland Cavaliers 94

This series had been very competitive in a way for the first 5 games.  But it seemed like whoever grabbed a lead held it and blew out the other team.

When the Cavs re-took a lead against the Bulls with 3:04 remaining in the 2nd quarter of Game 6, it was noted as the latest time a lead change had happened in any game throughout the series.

Chicago had blown out Cleveland in Games 1 & 3, but the Cavs came back with big efforts and blew out the Bulls in Games 2 & 4.  Game 5 looked like it might be the first close game when Cleveland cut Chicago’s lead to 73-71 entering the 4th quarter.  But the Bulls started the final quarter on a 15-0 run and by the time Cleveland scored their first field goal of the quarter, the Bulls led 99-74 on their way to a 112-89 victory.

Brad Daugherty had hurt the middle finger on his shooting hand in Game 5 and was 1-for-10 from the field.  Mark Price was playing through a sprained ankle while Michael Jordan was playing through a sprained wrist on his shooting hand.

Daugherty and Larry Nance, who was 4-for-12 in Game 5, came back strong early in Game 6.  They combined to score Cleveland’s first 10 points and Nance was 5-for-5 for the quarter.

But Scottie Pippen had a strong start for the Bulls with 12 1st quarter points as well as several blocks and steals.  Chicago led 26-21 after the 1st quarter as a result.

Almost surprisingly with Cleveland’s big front line, Chicago had out-rebounded the Cavs 225-to-192 in the first 5 games, including 80-to-57 on the offensive boards.  It continued as Pippen and Horace Grant got the Bulls some second shots.

But the Cavs stayed in the game with a strong effort on the glass as they out-rebounded Chicago for the first time all series.  Nance and Daugherty continued their strong play while Mark Price got going a bit as well.

Grant kept the Bulls ahead for most of the quarter with 10 2nd quarter points.  He and Pippen had 14 at halftime while Nance had 15 and Daugherty 11.  The game was tied at 45.

The biggest note though was Michael Jordan, who was 3-for-13 in the 1st half and didn’t look all that aggressive.

Pippen was aggressive and continued to start the 3rd quarter.  He hit a pull-up in transition and then got a breakaway slam after a steal.  The Bulls scored the first 6 points and Lenny Wilkens had to use a timeout with 10:08 left in the 3rd.

But Cleveland would come back and tie it at 55 when Nance got his 19th point on a tip-in.  Phil Jackson now had to use a timeout with 7:11 left.

The Cavs continued their momentum and built a 64-59 lead when Nance found Craig Ehlo on a cut for a layup.  The Richfield Coliseum was rocking at this point and most coaches would’ve used a timeout.  But Phil Jackson didn’t and the Bulls got a basket when Bill Cartwright hit a turnaround from the baseline.

Jordan then hit a jumper for his first field goal and points since early in the 2nd quarter.  Jordan followed with a drive past Ehlo for a layup and a foul, MJ’s first free throw attempt of the game.

The Bulls tied it at 72 on the last tenth of a second of the 3rd quarter.  Pippen hit a tough turnaround jumper from the foul line over Mike Sanders after Sanders reached-in and looked like he had forced Pippen to double-dribble.  Wilkens argued vehemently but it was ruled Sanders got a piece of the ball on the reach-in.

The Cavs responded by scoring the first 7 points of the 4th quarter.  Nance put back a miss.  Daugherty kicked out to Ehlo for a three.  Sanders drove down the lane for a layup.

Jordan and Pippen, naturally, kept Chicago in the game.  MJ had another three-point play on a baseline spin vs. Terrell Brandon and then a double-pump finish while drawing the foul.

Hot Rod Williams scored 6 straight Cavs points to put Cleveland up 87-83 with 4:24 left.  Jordan went coast-to-coast for a layup and then after an offensive rebound by MJ, John Paxson hit a wing jumper and the game was tied at 87.

Nance followed by driving down the lane and hitting Daugherty for a layup and Pippen’s 5th foul.  That three-point play made it 90-87, but Jordan drove by Ehlo on the baseline for a score.

On the following possession, Jordan was in the post.  Naturally, he was doubled and kicked out to Pippen for a jumper from the top to give Chicago a 91-90 lead with 2 minutes left.

Jordan hit two more free throws and the Bulls had a chance of putting it away after the Cavs missed two shots from the field.  But Daugherty rebounded a Pippen miss and Price pushed it up the floor.

Price pulled up from the top and nailed a three to tie it up at 93 with 47.8 seconds left.  Again, the Bulls didn’t use a timeout and went right to Jordan.

MJ got into the lane, was bumped on the drive, and connected on a twisting runner off the glass with 37.8 seconds left.  The three-point play gave the Bulls a 96-93 advantage.

The Cavs didn’t use a timeout and tried to bring Price off a screen.  Grant jumped out and knocked the ball out of bounds off of Price.  Pippen hit a free throw for a 4-point lead but Price drew a foul from Jordan with 17.5 seconds left.

Price made the first free throw to cut it to 97-94 but may have tried to be too much of a hero on the second attempt.  He missed intentionally and almost chased down his own rebound.  But when he got the ball he was falling out of bounds and tried to knock it off Grant.  But Horace controlled it and MJ was fouled with 11.2 seconds left.

Jordan knocked down the clinching free throws for his 16th point of the 4th quarter.

The Bulls had toughed out a road win to finish off a game Cleveland Cavaliers team.  Cleveland would have one more run at it in 1993 before it all fell apart.

Chicago would get 5 days off before taking on Portland in the NBA Finals.  Jordan would prove that those 5 days, and some motivation, would be all he needed to right himself and give a performance for the memory book.

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (29) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (20) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (10) – Center

John Paxson (4) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (29) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (4)

Cliff Levingston (3)

Scott Williams (0)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

Cleveland starters (points scored)

Mike Sanders (6) – Small Forward

Larry Nance (25) – Power Forward

Brad Daugherty (18) – Center

Mark Price (14) – Point Guard

Craig Ehlo (11) – Shooting Guard

Cleveland bench (points scored)

Hot Rod Williams (16)

John Battle (4)

Terrell Brandon (0)

Cleveland Coach: Lenny Wilkens

jordan vs battle

Michael Jordan, posting up here against John Battle, scored 16 of his 29 points in the 4th quarter of Game 6 to put the Cavaliers away *photo courtesy of Inside Hoops

June 3, 1992 – NBA Finals, Game 1: Portland Blazers 89 @Chicago Bulls 122

On paper, it looked like a good matchup.  Portland and Chicago had been the dominant team in their conference over the last 3 years.  Each team possessed the best shooting guard in their conference as well.

Michael Jordan vs. Clyde Drexler had been building throughout the week.  But their matchup on March 1 may have been a prelude in more ways than just the game.  Phil Jackson had said pregame that Portland was talented but had a tendency to self-destruct (something that happened in their first matchup of the year in November, the 2nd game on this blog).

Jordan even said postgame that the Blazers had more talent than the Bulls.  Now Portland had to answer throughout the rest of the season and through the playoffs whether they could finish off close games, despite winning most of their games.

Now the Blazers were where they needed to be and they could answer a lot of questions by beating the champion Bulls.  But Michael Jordan, through extra motivation of people comparing him to Clyde Drexler, wasn’t going to let it happen in Game 1.

Portland started off brilliantly in Game 1 at Chicago Stadium.  Kevin Duckworth hit a turnaround from the baseline while drawing a foul on Bill Cartwright.  Drexler got a banker in transition and, later, a flying slam over a standing Jordan on a 3-on-2 break.

Terry Porter continued his hot hand from the Western Conference Finals and nailed two jumpers.  When Cliff Robinson hit a jumper from the top, Portland was 7-for-7 from the field while Chicago was 2-for-10.  Despite that, Portland only led 15-7.

Jordan would connect on a three-pointer from the wing after missing his first two attempts from outside the arc.  This cut the lead to 17-12.  Then MJ hit a fall-away from the post over Drexler and drew a foul.  He then hit his only free throw attempt of the game.

Porter then hit two more jumpers and was 4-for-4 from the field with 10 points as Portland regained a 25-17 lead.  Scottie Pippen then penetrated and hit Jordan for a corner three at the end of the shot clock.  Pippen later pushed the ball in transition to find Jordan for his 3rd three-pointer of the quarter to cut the lead to 25-23.

Jordan hit two more jumpers from inside the arc, including a pull-up after getting around Cliff Robinson with a behind-the-back dribble, to give him 18 1st quarter points.  The Bulls gained a 33-30 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.

MJ would rest to start the 2nd quarter and his break lasted nearly 6 minutes, which would make his 2nd quarter totals even more amazing.

The Bulls would keep the lead as the bench of B.J. Armstrong, Scott Williams, and Bobby Hansen provided a spark.  But Portland stayed within 45-44 as Robinson and Danny Ainge gave them a spark off the bench.  Jordan came back in with 6:34 left.

He started with a fall-away from the mid-post against Drexler and would later hit his 4th three-pointer after Armstrong penetrated and kicked out to him.  Rick Adelman used a timeout with 4:37 left after this three with the Blazers trailing 52-45.

It didn’t help as Jordan stole an entry pass to Drexler and nearly went coast-to-coast before pulling up and hitting a wing jumper.  MJ hit another pull-up from the elbow before connecting on his 5th three from the top after Chicago secured an offensive rebound.

This trey made it 61-49 with just over 2 minutes left and Adelman used another timeout.  It still didn’t help as Pippen stole a Drexler pass but missed a breakaway layup between two people.  But who was there but MJ to slam home the miss to bring his 2nd quarter total to 14 points and his 1st half total to 32 points.

Drexler came right back and airballed a three-point attempt.  The Bulls came back down on their possession and, after some ball movement, Jordan was open again behind the three-point line at the top for a split second.  Although Cliff Robinson came out to challenge, MJ nailed his 6th straight three-pointer with under a minute and a half to go in the 1st half.

This gave Chicago a 66-49 lead, gave Jordan an NBA Finals record 35 1st half points (the previous record was 33 by Elgin Baylor in a half on the night he set the Finals record of 61 points in 1962), and tied MJ for the record 6 threes in an NBA Finals game.  After his 6th three, the cameras caught MJ looking at Magic Johnson, broadcasting the game for NBC, and shrugging.

The Bulls led 66-51 at the half and effectively put it away in the 3rd as Scottie Pippen quietly scored 16 points in the quarter to being his total to 24.  Pippen was one rebound short of a triple-double but didn’t play in the 4th quarter.

Chicago increased its lead and were never headed for the rest of the game.  But Portland would make a series of it, coming back to win 2 of the next 3 games.  Chicago, though, blew the Blazers out twice in Portland (the Blazers first home playoff losses of 1992) to take it back to Chicago for Game 6 up 3-2.

Portland, once and for all, would live up to their hype.

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (7) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (3) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (7) – Center

Terry Porter (13) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (16) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Cliff Robinson (16)

Danny Ainge (8)

Mark Bryant (10)

Robert Pack (4)

Alaa Abdelnaby (1)

Ennis Whatley (4)

Wayne Cooper (0)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (24) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (11) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (5) – Center

John Paxson (4) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (39) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (11)

Scott Williams (12)

Cliff Levingston (8)

Bobby Hansen (5)

Stacey King (1)

Will Perdue (2)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

June 14, 1992 – NBA Finals, Game 6: Portland Blazers 93 @Chicago Bulls 97

For most of the series, it didn’t look like Portland could match Chicago.  The Trailblazers were blown out twice on their home court in Games 3 & 5, and blown out at Chicago Stadium in Game 1.

The Blazers were close to being blown out in Game 4, but they made a strong 4th quarter comeback thanks to foul trouble on Scottie Pippen, which in essence tired Michael Jordan out, and a small, three-guard lineup that worked beautifully.

It was said by some that Chicago blew Game 4, having as much as a 7-point lead in the 4th quarter.  Others said Portland took it.  There was the same talk after Game 2 in which Portland may have played their best game of the series overall, at Chicago Stadium.

The Blazers had a 9-point lead at halftime before being out-scored by 16 in the 3rd.  The Blazers trailed 92-82 with 4:36 left when Clyde Drexler fouled out.  But then the momentum turned Portland’s way as Jordan was called for a technical 11 seconds later.  The Blazers out-scored Chicago 15-5 over the last 4:36 and sent the game into overtime as Jordan missed a pull-up from the elbow at the buzzer.

Then, led by Danny Ainge, the Trailblazers out-scored the Bulls 18-7 in overtime to steal the game.

The Blazers had shown heart in their two wins but almost no heart in their 3 losses, which led to talk that those two wins were more about the Bulls blowing the games.  This upset Portland, and especially coach Rick Adelman, deeply.

But after Game 5’s 119-106 loss, which Jordan had 46 points and Pippen was an assist away from a triple-double, nobody thought Portland would have a chance in the Chicago Stadium.

Instead, what happened for three quarters was that Portland played its best game of the series by far.  Then the Blazers, unfortunately, more than lived up to their recent reputation of losing winnable games by not showing poise.  This particular Blazer team never recovered from this loss.

Portland came out aggressive but cold to start.  They missed their first 7 shots before Jerome Kersey, who had come on in the last two games in Portland, tipped in his own miss for their first field goal.

Despite starting 3-for-13 from the field, Portland led Chicago 8-6 after 5 minutes.  The dragged 1st quarter had the teams tied at 19 with around a minute to go.  Then Portland made its move led by Kersey.

First, he drove down the lane for a score.  Then, after Cliff Robinson blocked a shot, Terry Porter fed Kersey for a layup on a breakaway.  Ainge followed with a steal on the inbounds pass.  Kersey then fed Drexler, who missed, but Kersey tipped it in for his 12th point of the 1st quarter.  With that run, Portland led 25-19 at the end of the quarter.

The Blazers led by as much as 9 early in the 2nd quarter before Chicago cut it to 32-28 with Michael Jordan on the bench, this wouldn’t be the last time in this game Chicago made a run with the greatest player ever on the bench.

Once Jordan came back in though, Portland went on an 11-0 run, culminating with a Buck Williams three-point play to give the Trailblazers a 43-28 lead.

MJ did help Chicago cut into that lead with two three-pointers and another jumper from the top.  But Portland still led 50-44 at the half.

Kersey had 14 points, Drexler 11 (although he was struggling from the field), and Porter 10.

Jordan had 14 points at the half but was having trouble finishing on his drives to the rim, this continued a bit in the 3rd quarter as Chicago came out cold.

Drexler deflected an entry pass intended for Jordan to Porter.  Drexler then found Kersey on the ensuing fast break for a monster slam.

This sparked Portland as Porter and Kersey continued to lead their aggressive attack on offense.  On defense, Portland’s athleticism was showing off.  Drexler, despite picking up his 4th foul, continued to deflect balls and even blocked a breakaway attempt by Jordan.

Kersey, Porter, and Drexler had 23 of Portland’s 29 points in the 3rd quarter.  The Blazers led by as much as 17 late in the quarter and took a 79-64 advantage heading into the 4th.

With Jordan playing the entire 3rd quarter, and Pippen resting late in the quarter, Phil Jackson decided to rest MJ to start the 4th quarter as usual, despite the deficit.

Pippen came back in (Jackson rarely had a lineup on the floor without either Pippen or Jordan, this was manifested a bit when Jordan played for a good portion of the 4th quarter in a Game 1 blowout and then had to play 44 minutes in Game 4 with Pippen in foul trouble, tiring out MJ down the stretch to the point that he didn’t score in the final 10:28 of Game 4).

Scottie would be flanked by B.J. Armstrong, Scott Williams (who had come on in the last two series to take Will Perdue’s playing time at backup center), and little used Stacey King and Bobby Hansen, who would retire following the season.

Hansen connected on a corner three after Pippen penetrated and kicked out to B.J. who swung the ball.  Hansen followed by stripping Jerome Kersey on a potential layup at the other end.  Stacey King was then bodied hard by Kersey as he went for a layup.  A flagrant foul was called on Kersey.

King hit a free throw, the Bulls got the ball back, and Pippen posted up Drexler and hit on a banker.  It was now 79-70.  Cliff Robinson hit a runner but then Kevin Duckworth picked up his 5th foul against King with 10:20 left in the game.  Stacey made both free throws.

Pippen followed with another turnaround banker from the post.  Armstrong hit a corner jumper after recovering a deflected pass.  Then King banged into Buck Williams (who tried to draw the offensive foul with a flop, he probably would’ve gotten the call these days) and hit on a banker from the post.

Portland then used the first of their 3 timeouts in the 4th quarter as Chicago had cut it to 81-78 with 8:36 left.  The Blazers had 4 turnovers on their 6 4th quarter possessions.  Jordan came back in at this point and, naturally, Chicago didn’t score on their next few possessions.

Portland did as Robinson found Drexler for a layup.  But the Blazers missed on other chances to increase the lead.  Finally, Pippen went coast-to-coast for a layup and Jordan hit on a running jumper to cut the lead to 83-82.  Portland used their second timeout with 5:57 left.

After Porter hit two free throws, Pippen nailed a long three from the wing at the end of the shot clock to tie it at 85.  Porter followed with a pull-up from the top.  Jordan hit another running jumper.

Then after Scott Williams blocked a Drexler layup.  The Bulls almost squandered their chance to take the lead for the first time since the 1st quarter when a backdoor pass was deflected and stolen by Buck Williams.

But as Buck looked for an outlet, Jordan punched the ball out and stole it.  MJ then immediately slammed it down to give Chicago that lead at 89-87.

Kersey fed Drexler for another layup to tie the game.  Both teams followed by missing on their next few possessions.  Finally, Pippen hit a pull-up from the foul line to put the Bulls up 91-89.

John Paxson then stripped the ball from Porter as Terry was attempting a jumper and knocked the ball out of bounds off Porter.  Jordan hit a fall-away in the lane at the end of the shot clock for a 93-89 lead with 1:39 left.  Portland used their last timeout.

Drexler hit two free throws and then rebounded a Scott Williams miss with 58 seconds left (Williams would be the only Bulls reserve that started the 4th quarter who played the entire quarter).

Drexler then drove into Williams and missed on a scoop.  Horace Grant and Buck Williams battled for a rebound and forced a jump ball with 49 seconds left.  Williams tipped it out of bounds.

Chicago gave it to Jordan, who drove by Drexler for a layup and a 95-91 Chicago lead.  Drexler missed a three but Pippen fouled Kersey on the rebound with 27 seconds left.

Kersey made both free throws.  The one thing Portland didn’t choke on in this game was at the foul line.  The Blazers set a Finals record with the most free throws made in a game without a miss as they went 21-for-21.  It was little consolation.

Porter fouled Jordan with 11.8 seconds left after Portland was unable to get a steal.  Jordan made the two clinching free throws and the Bulls had their 2nd straight championship.

Chicago had had a much longer journey to win than they had in 1991.  They played 22 playoff games (as opposed to 17 in 1991) and had to survive a 7-game series with New York and two hard fought 6-game series vs. Cleveland and Portland.

But they had also won this championship at Chicago Stadium (the first time a Chicago team won a championship in Chicago since the 1963 Bears and the first time a Chicago team won a championship in Chicago Stadium since the 1938 Blackhawks).

The Bulls received their championship trophy from the commissioner, David Stern, in their locker room, which was customary for the NBA at the time.  But the Bulls brought it back out to the court to celebrate with the fans.  With that, every time a team clinched a championship on their home court from thereon (and sometimes on the other teams’ court), they would receive the trophy at mid-court.

Chicago celebrated long after June 14, 1992, and Pippen and Jordan would now be headed to the Olympics.  The Bulls next task would be to try and do something no NBA team had done since 1966.  It would prove to be a harder journey and may have helped drive one from the game for a few years.

Portland starters (points scored)

Jerome Kersey (24) – Small Forward

Buck Williams (7) – Power Forward

Kevin Duckworth (4) – Center

Terry Porter (22) – Point Guard

Clyde Drexler (24) – Shooting Guard

Portland bench (points scored)

Cliff Robinson (10)

Danny Ainge (2)

Portland Coach: Rick Adelman

Chicago starters (points scored)

Scottie Pippen (26) – Small Forward

Horace Grant (2) – Power Forward

Bill Cartwright (4) – Center

John Paxson (13) – Point Guard

Michael Jordan (33) – Shooting Guard

Chicago bench (points scored)

B.J. Armstrong (6)

Scott Williams (4)

Stacey King (5)

Bobby Hansen (3)

Cliff Levingston (1)

Chicago Coach: Phil Jackson

pippen_jordan_111206jordan trophygame6_120621

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen celebrate their 2nd straight championship before heading off to Barcelona for the Olympics, while Chicago Stadium was a madhouse during and after the game *photos courtesy of nba.com, Getty Images, and Real GM

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