WARR producer and Blackhawks reporter Sid “The Kid” is a reliable source of information when it comes to Chicago sports throughout the ages. Now every #throwbackthursday Sid gives you some of the top moments to remember for each week forward.
By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
In 1998, in their dogged pursuit towards their sixth NBA title in eight seasons, the Chicago Bulls had an easy road through the Eastern Conference’s first two rounds with a sweep of the New Jersey Nets and a five game series win over the Charlotte Hornets as the results.
Entering the conference finals against the Indiana Pacers, most experts expected little challenge en route to the finals for the reigning champs, instead this series would become a classic and a rare Michael Jordan series in a championship year that went a whole seven games.
This series pivoted after a devastating loss in Game 4 courtesy of the assassin Reggie Miller.
A needed response came from the Bulls, who won Game 5 handily, but they were turned away again in Game 6 at Market Square Arena to set up a Game 7 showdown back in Chicago. It was a tightly-played contest thru three and a half quarters, you could even argue the Pacers played the better game overall. This series helped decide things:
After Michael Jordan won a key jump ball from Pacers center Rik Smits, the flood gates opened with Steve Kerr’s 3-point basket to help the Bulls pull away 88-83 to win the series 4-3 and clinch yet another Finals berth. Though Indiana was once again the bridesmaids in the East, they’d only have to wait until the year 2000 before making their first NBA Finals against the Lakers.
For 90s Bulls, Welcoming June = Welcoming Finals
The story of the Bulls of the 1990s made the turn from May to June a special time in Chicago, a time that meant the entire sports world would be soon turning its attention to our town and routinely, as it would be for the last time in ’98, we’d have something special to show.
Take, for instance, 1993 and another Eastern Final clincher against a bitter rival, this time the New York Knicks in really the last time they’d rightfully challenge Michael Jordan and Chicago during the ’90s Dynasty.
With a dramatic Game 5 win at Madison Square Garden in their belt, the Bulls returned home to old Chicago Stadium ready to give New York the knockout punch. Chicago would get the job done on June 4th of ’93 thanks to Jordan’s 25 points and Scottie Pippen’s 24 for a 96-88 win to clinch the series in six after losing the first two games of the series in New York.
Patrick Ewing, who was denied a trip to the championship round, led the Knicks with 26 points while John Starks struggled with 14 points on 5-11 shooting, a theme that would really dog him in 1994.
In June proper we often got the opening games of new Finals series, the last such series to start in Chicago came in 1997 on June 1 as the Bulls welcomed the Utah Jazz.
In the midst of their fifth championship run the Bulls had first time challengers in the Utah Jazz and an impressive duo to contain in Karl Malone and John Stockton. Fortunately (though not for much of the audience) everyone was contained in this low-scoring, were back and forth low affair.
Game 1 would come down to a couple of critical plays — with a chance to take the lead, Jazz forward Karl Malone missed two free throws, proving he didn’t “deliver on Sunday,” and left the door open for Chicago. The stage was set for Michael Jordan to deliver the game winner over Bryon Russell giving the Bulls a 84-82 win along with another career highlight shot for Mr. Jordan.
Taking it back to 1992, that series commenced with all eyes on the superstar showdown between Jordan and Portland Trail Blazers guard Clyde Drexler with the clear two best teams in the NBA finally on center stage together.
After Portland’s fast start, the Bulls were back in rhythm and Jordan would have a first half performance of a lifetime. Jordan hit and tied a then-record hitting six three pointers while scoring 35 points. The most indelible moment came after Jordan nailed No. 6 and gave his now famous shrug to Cliff Robinson and the NBC crew courtside.
Chicago defeated the Blazers going away by a 122-89 score to take the series lead lead, which it would need in a tough six-game set.
Finally, back in 1991 the Bulls had to take a knock on the head in the franchise’s first ever Finals game. Game 1 of the ’91 Finals was historic for it being Jordan’s breakthrough into the championship round but in playing the winningest team of the 1980s and the league’s then-OG in Magic Johnson, something had to be proved first.
After losing the opener 93-91 on June 2nd, Game 2 on June 5th became the first stage of Finals immortality for Jordan.
The Bulls did not mess around in this 107-86 thrashing, except when it was time to prove a point. During Jordan’s game high 33 point effort he scored 13 consecutive field goals, capping off that magnificent run with arguably his signature move — a left hand reverse layup over Sam Perkins. What a way to do your former North Carolina teammate.
The Bulls wouldn’t lose another Finals game until 1992, they won the ’91 ‘chip in five games, clinching the title in what would be the last Finals game played in LA’s Great Western Forum.
Hawks Get Better Of Rivals In Last Playoff Battle
After winning Game 6 to tie their series at 3-3, the final stage was set for a classic finish at the United Center in what currently stands as the last playoff series between the eternal NHL rivals in Chicago and Detroit.
The Blackhawks scored first courtesy of Marian Hossa, giving the home team an early lead. Detroit responded early in the third period, catching the Hawks in a defensive breakdown coverage with Henrik Zetterberg tying the game at 1-1.
During the late stages of regulation, Niklas Hjalmarsson appeared to have scored the go ahead goal, but a penalty was called on Brandon Saad which was away from the play. The overtime period provided a photo finish with Brent Seabrook scoring the game-winner to the Hawks a 2-1 victory and a 3-1 series comeback win. Of course, we here at WARR were there to document it all.
The series would mark the final time that the Red Wings and Hawks would face each other as Western Conference foes as Detroit moved to the Eastern Conference the following season, making Chicago the only Original Six franchise in the West.
At this point the only time Detroit and Chicago will meet again in June will be in a Stanley Cup Final. One can only dream…
Sidney Brown is WARR Media's resident Chicago sports historian