An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: MJ's last shot with the Bulls
Day 28 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls franchise has six NBA titles, and has 13 playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: June 14, 1998
Situation: The No. 1 Chicago Bulls lead the No. 1 Utah Jazz, 3-2, heading to Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Context: Coming off back-to-back NBA titles in two of the most dominant season in NBA history, Michael Jordan and the Bulls entered the 1997-98 season in search of a second three-peat in eight years. After losing just 23 games in the past two regular seasons combined, the Bulls got off to a slow start, and were just 8-7 after a November loss to the Pacers. No worries, though. Led by league MVP Michael Jordan (28.7 points per game), the Bulls won 54 of their final 67 games to finish 62-20, earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Chicago didn’t miss a beat to start the playoffs, sweeping the Nets in the first round, then bouncing the Hornets in five games. The Pacers presented a problem, pushing the Eastern Conference finals to seven games, but Jordan’s 28 points in the series finale lifted the Bulls to a 88-83 win, and a spot in the NBA Finals for the third straight year. Their match-up, for the second consecutive season, was the Utah Jazz. Utah jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Chicago rebounded to take three straight, including a 42-point win in Game 3 at the United Center. The Jazz stole Game 5 from the Bulls in Chicago, 83-81, setting up Game 6 back in Salt Lake City.
Recap: In front of a boisterous Utah crowd, the Jazz and Bulls were back-and-forth for the entire game. With Scottie Pippen battling a nagging injury, Michael Jordan was a one-man show for Chicago; he poured in 23 points in the first half just to keep the game close, as the Jazz led 49-45 at the break. The game stayed close into the final minute, the teams knotted at 83 apiece. John Stockton gave Utah a lead with less than 45 seconds left, hitting a three-pointer to put the Jazz up 86-83. Jordan came back to cut the lead to one with a layup. Back the other way, Utah had a chance to increase the lead, but turned the ball over, setting up one of the most famous moments in NBA history. With 5.2 seconds left, Jordan crossed over Bryon Russell — yes, using a push-off — and drilled a jumper from the top of the key to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead, and silence the Jazz crowd. Stockton came up empty on the other end, enabling the Bulls to win the title. Chicago won, 87-86.
Top players: Michael Jordan led all scorers with 45 points. He shot 15-for-35 from the field. Toni Kukoc (15 points) was the only other Bull in double figures. Karl Malone led the Jazz with 31 points and 11 rebounds. John Stockton finished with just 10 points and five assists.
After the game: Michael Jordan’s game-winning jumper wound up being his final shot as a Chicago Bull. Without Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, Tim Floyd’s Bulls finished 13-37 in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, and Chicago missed the postseason for the first time in 15 years. The Bulls didn’t have another winning season until 2004-05, and haven’t been back to the NBA Finals since the second three-peat.
Check back tomorrow for the Lakers.
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