Chapter 26: The new and improved Bulls
The 1987-88 season started unlike any previous season for Michael Jordan. He was still torching opponent defenses and leading the league in scoring, but now the Bulls were also winning most of their games. The Bulls started the season with 4 straight wins, and finished off the month of November with a 10-3 record, best in the NBA.
The wins were the result of great team work and effort from everyone involved. Coach Doug Collins was leading the Bulls in the right direction, Charles Oakley provided veteran experience and a physical presence on the court, and the new rookies Pippen and Grant brought youth and energy to the team. But much of the credit still goes to Michael Jordan, who was leading the charge on both ends of the floor. In addition to leading the team in scoring, he also led the team in steals and blocks.
Here is one of Michael’s best games early that season vs. the Cavs. Pippen also makes a great play with a powerful jam over 2 Cavs defenders in this clip.
By this point in his career, Michael had turned what used to be a weakness in his game (outside shooting) into a strength. Opponents who used to beat the Bulls by forcing Michael to shoot from the outside had to find other ways to slow down the unstoppable Jordan. And even when Jordan had an off night, his new teammates picked up the slack and helped the Bulls win games.
However, the hot streak could not last forever and by late December the red hot Bulls had cooled off. Pippen suffered an injury and could not play with the same intensity as before. Jordan’s scoring also slumped and the Bulls suffered 5 straight losses going into the new year. Here, despite scoring 49 points, the Bulls lost to the Philadelphia 76er’s.
But Jordan was not about to let the slump stop the progress that the team had worked so hard to make. After back to back games of scoring under 20 points during the losing streak, Jordan turned up the intensity and scored 25 or more points in 19 straight games leading up to the all-star break. In addition to Michael’s improved scoring, coach Collins made several lineup changes that gave the Bulls a renewed sense of confidence, which got them back on the winning track.
By the time the Bulls entered the all-star break, they were back to winning basketball games and had achieved a record of 27-18, only 13 wins away from their win total the year before. The winning Bulls, along with the exciting Michael Jordan, gave the Chicago fans much to look forward to in the all-star game that was about to take place in their hometown Chicago Stadium.