Chapter 31: Round 1 vs. the Cavs
The win over Boston in the last game of the regular season gave the Bulls some good momentum entering the playoff. Their first opponent was the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite being the favorites, the Bulls had only a 3-3 record against the Cavs in the regular season. Their last meeting was the 2nd to last game of the regular season where Michael Jordan only scored 26 points in a 107-103 loss. The series was by no means decided and Cleveland was not about to give up without a fight.
Cleveland knew that in order to have a chance at winning they had to somehow stop Jordan. The hall of fame coach and player Lenny Wilkens decided on a strategy where the guards would direct Jordan into Cleveland’s 3 big men Larry Nance, John Williams, and Brad Daugherty. Although it sounded good on paper, Jordan proved to be too quick for any directing by the Cleveland guards.
Here’s a recap of the round 1 series.
In game one Craig Ehlo was charged with defending Jordan because of an ankle injury to the more athletic Ron Harper. In response Jordan caught fire and scored 50 points in front of the hometown crowd. Cleveland had no answer to Jordan as he scored basket after basket in every conceivable fashion. There was a scary moment in game one when Jordan collapsed to the floor holding his right knee. Fortunately it was minor and Jordan returned to the game after a brief rest. The Bulls took the game easily, winning the game 104-93.
Here are the highlights from that game.
After being embarrassed in game one, Cleveland sent Ron Harper to guard Michael in game two. Harper had said after game one that Michael Jordan never scored 50 on him. Obviously he had not learned the lesson that many others would learn over the years, and that is to not challenge Michael Jordan because he will find a way to beat you.
Jordan, not fazed at all by the right knee injury in game 2, and went on to top his game one performance by dropping 55 points on Ron Harper.
Here are the highlights from that game
Cleveland showed more fight at home and managed to take games 3 and 4. Jordan scored 38 and 44 points respectively in those games.
Game 3 highlights
Game 5 was back in Chicago and the Bull were looking to wrap up the series. Coach Doug Collins made a lineup change and gave Scottie Pippen his first start of the season over Brad Sellers. Pippen did not disappoint and scored 24 points, in addition to making 3 important steals to help Chicago seal the victory. Michael Jordan scored 39 points in the 107-101 Chicago victory.
Game 4 & 5 highlights
Michael Jordan and the Bulls finally got past the first round of the playoffs and now had to face the Detroit Pistons in the conference semifinals. Chicago and Detroit were bitter rivals in the regular season, and their animosity towards each other would only get stronger in the playoffs. The Bulls had a fight on their hands, but were they ready to step up to the challenge?