June 14, 1992 | Bulls 97, Portland Trail Blazers 93
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
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Comcast SportsNet will show the sixth of 15 Chicago Bulls classic games on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 7:00 p.m. CT. Bulls broadcasters Neil Funk and Stacey King, as well as Bulls.com writer Sam Smith, will provide pregame, postgame and between quarters commentary on each of the games.
Sam Smith will also provide commentary here on Bulls.com about each of the games. Tuesday’s game is not only history for the Bulls for the repeat championship—just the fifth ever team to repeat—but it is the biggest ever fourth quarter comeback to win an NBA Finals game and the championship. The Bulls were mostly outplayed the entire game against a desperate Trail Blazers team when coach Phil Jackson apparently went to the bench to save his starters for the seventh game.
Trailing by 15 to open the fourth quarter, reserves like Bobby Hansen and Stacey King made huge contributions, and the Bulls celebrated a championship at home after winning in Los Angeles the previous season. Unfortunately, the celebration later outside the Chicago Stadium and on Michigan Avenue turned a bit too enthusiastic, eventually leading even the mayor and Michael Jordan the following season to issue pleas for calm before what seemed like it would be another home clincher. Instead, the Bulls would go on to three-peat in Phoenix in 1993. But this 1992 win over the Trail Blazers would, much like the Bulls did to the Cavs, effectively deny Portland in its prime as the Trail Blazers would also begin a decline that would not leave them as contenders again until the late 1990’s.
>> Box score | Comcast SportsNet airing "Chicago Bulls Classics"
>> Also: Jordan's shrug said it all as Bulls torched Blazers
>> First NBA championship for Jordan and the Bulls
>> Jordan hits "The Shot" to close out the Cavs
>> MJ scores 27 in 4th, hits game-winner vs. Bucks
>> Jordan sets old scoring mark with 58 to beat New Jersey
June 14, 1992 | 1992 NBA Finals | Game 6
Bulls 97, Portland Trail Blazers 93
As I discussed last week in the review for Game 1 of the 1992 Finals, it had been a controversy marked season for the Bulls with Jordan’s White House snub and the later revelations of high stakes gambling with criminals that had some even saying Jordan should be suspended from the NBA. Still, the Bulls went on to dominate the league like rarely anyone ever has with a 10-game margin over the team with the second best record. But while the 1991 playoffs had been a coronation, the 1992 playoffs were a slog with the Bulls 14-7 going into Game 6 against the Trail Blazers after winning the title with a 15-2 record in 1991.
The Bulls seemed to gain their second wind for the Trail Blazers with Jordan’s magical Game 1 “shrug” and six three-pointers in the rout as Jordan went after the team that passed over him in the 1984 draft for the player trying to defend Jordan, Clyde Drexler. That enabled the Bulls to play from even or ahead the entire series, even after Portland stole Game 2 with an overtime win in Chicago. The Bulls won Games 3 and 5—the latter with 46 points from Jordan—in Portland and seemed certain to clinch in Game 6 as the Bulls had led for 78 percent of the minutes in the series coming into Game 6.
But the Trail Blazers would be a desperate team facing elimination and perhaps realizing they might never get back this way again after losing in the 1990 Finals and being upset by the Lakers on the way to the 1991 Finals. A third strike awaited, if you will.
Portland got a big boost early in Game 6 from Jerome Kersey, whom the Bulls liked to play off because he wasn’t a good shooter. Both Jordan and Scottie Pippen liked to play the passing lanes for steals to ignite the break. But Kersey burned Pippen early as Portland took a 25-19 first quarter lead. Phil Jackson had created controversy early in the series saying the Trail Blazers would self destruct, and their reputation was of an athletic but mistake prone team. They did take a lot of bad shots, but really because they had few great shooters. They were a terrific transition and open court team, but their half court play was weak and I always thought the failure to employ Kevin Duckworth more was fatal.
Drexler began to go at Jordan in the second quarter with some success and a dunk and Portland especially began crashing the boards and taking away the inside from the Bulls. The Trail Blazers went on a 10-0 run to take a 43-28 lead and it began to look more and more like another seventh game after the Bulls were pushed to the edge by the Knicks in the conference semifinals. The Bulls continued to hang in, though, trailing 50-44 at halftime. But Portland was clearly the aggressor.
The Bulls opened the second half badly with turnovers and fell behind by 17. B.J. Armstrong made a pair of baskets to keep the game from getting away, but the Trail Blazers still led 79-64 entering the fourth quarter and 42-14 on inside points.
But it all would change in an instant.
Jackson took a flier on Hansen, playing for the injured Craig Hodges, and Hansen came through with a quick three with a group that included King, Armstrong and Scott Williams with Pippen. King, who had struggled and was unable to beat out Horace Grant after being the sixth pick in the 1989 draft, had one of his best sequences with a free throw on a flagrant foul by Kersey and then a drive for a score. Pippen went into the post for a score after another Armstrong jumper three minutes into the quarter and the Bulls were within 81-76. Portland, as Jackson predicted, was imploding with turnovers and bad fouls.
King then hit a banker, making it scores on seven straight possessions for the Bulls to get within three points midway through the quarter when Jackson sent Jordan back into the game. Jordan scored right away with a floater as Portland began to become even more distracted, claiming bad foul calls. Pippen hit an unlikely three at the 24-second buzzer, and amazingly the Bulls were tied at 85. Shortly thereafter, the Bulls took the lead, their first since it was 4-2.
John Paxson stripped even the usually reliable Terry Porter and Jordan would finish it up with a driving score and post up to begin the wild celebration, the first home celebration after a title victory for a Chicago team in decades. Oh, what a night it would be in anticipation now of three.