Chapter 29: A strong run to the playoffs
Despite Michael Jordan averaging fewer points than the year before, the new Bulls had a 27-18 record coming out of the all-star break, and were on track to top their previous year’s total of 40 wins. Jordan had proved that the Bulls could win games without him having to shoulder the load every night, now he wanted to prove that the Bulls could finish the season strong before heading into the playoffs.
Jordan continued his scoring streak, and did not even once score under 20 points after the all-star break. He had 10 40+ point games, and one stretch of 7 games with 35 or more points. But contrary to what people thought, Chicago’s success was not built entirely on the offensive prowess of Michael Jordan. Much of their success had to be credited to the superb defensive efforts of the Bulls as a team. With a much improved defense, the new Bulls began to record victories against top NBA clubs like the Lakers and the Celtics.
Beating the Lakers and the Celtics was sweet. However, Jordan’s sweetest victories always came against his bitter rivals the Detroit Pistons.
In one of Jordan’s finest performances of the year, he scored 59 points against Pistons. He was hot all night and shot 22 for 27, but the Pistons managed to keep the game close. The score was tied at 110 and Isiah Thomas had a shot for the win, but he was blocked by Jordan, who was then fouled and made both free throws, giving the Bulls the win with a score of 112-110.
Jordan’s highlights from the game.
You can watch the full game here.
It was clear to everyone now that Jordan was the foundation of the Bulls and the best basketball player in the league. To lock up Jordan, Bulls managing partner Reinsdorf, who normally does not renegotiate contracts, renegotiated Jordan’s rookie year contract ($6.3 million over 7 years) to a record 8 year $25 million deal. It was announced on April 8th, 5 days after the 59 point show against the Pistons.
As icing on the cake, Jordan finished off the 1987-88 regular season with a 115-108 victory over the Boston Celtics. Jordan scored 46 points in that game.
Here are the highlights from that game.
The Bulls compiled a 50-32 record that season, and entered the playoffs as the favorites over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and with home court advantage. Up till this point Jordan and the Bulls had not won a playoff series, but all of that was about to change.