Chapter 40: MJ rolls over the Knicks
Last chapter: Game 5 and “The Shot”
Meet the Knicks
This was the first meeting of Michael Jordan’s Bulls and the New York Knicks in the playoffs. Jordan, always one to play well under the spotlight, was looking to put on a show in the legendary Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks came into the Eastern conference semifinals with a full head of steam. They had swept the 76′ers in the first round of the playoffs and held home court advantage against the Bulls. The Bulls on the other hand, had just played an exhausting five game series against Cleveland and only had one day of rest. How the two teams would play in game 1 would determine the tone for the rest of the series.
The Bulls did come out a little sluggish in game 1 and was behind by eight points late in the fourth quarter. But with Michael Jordan on the court, no lead was safe. Jordan, who had been rather quiet till this point, stepped up his game and tied the score. Mark Jackson had the ball for the last shot and forced up a long 3 which missed, allowing the game to go into overtime. In overtime, the Bulls again dominated and finished off the Knicks with a final score of 120-109. Michael finished with a triple double of 34 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.
The Bulls stole home court advantage and were now in the driver’s seat.
The Knicks bounced back in game 2 and kept Michael Jordan to his lowest scoring game of the season. Jordan scored only scored 15 points as the Knicks blew out the Bulls 114-97. The series was even at 1-1 as both teams headed to Chicago.
The Bulls were re-energized as they played in front of the hometown crowd in game 3. Jordan led a run and gun game and looked unstoppable on his way to 40 points and a 111-88 victory over the Knicks. He barely missed a triple double by 1 assist.
Jordan suffered a groin strain in game 3 and was resting at home when he heard New York Knicks coach Rick Pitino remark that Jordan might have been faking the injury. That small remark was enough to motivate Jordan to his best performance of the series in game 4. Jordan scored 47 points in another convincing win over the Knicks.
The Knicks, facing elimination, had their best scoring game of the series and beat the Bulls 121-114.
In a classic finish, Jordan scored 8 out of the last 10 points for the Bulls as the Bulls pulled off a close win 113-111.
For the first time in his career, Michael Jordan led the Bulls into the Easter conference finals. But awaiting them were their long time rivals the Detroit Pistons, who had eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs the year before. The Pistons had created the “Jordan Rules” to shutdown Michael, which proved fairly successful at limiting Michael’s scoring. But now that Michael was playing as a point guard and distributing the ball, would the “Jordan Rules” still work?
Next chapter: Pistons, round 2