The 60 Greatest Playoff Moments: Jordan Jolts Jazz in Game 6
With Game 6 of the NBA Finals on the line, everyone in the Delta Center -- Utah Jazz coaches and players included -- knew the ball would end up in his hands. For the Chicago Bulls, too, it was another no-brainer. There was no play to call, no screens to set. It was simple: Get it to '23'. That Michael Jordan is the go-to guy in the last seconds of any close Bulls game is the worst secret in basketball -- and still it makes no difference.
With Chicago trailing by three points in the final minute, Jordan first scored on a drive. Then he stripped the ball from Karl Malone at the defensive end. Finally, he buried the game-winning shot, a 20-footer with 5.2 seconds left, that gave the Bulls an 87-86 victory and their sixth championship in eight years.
Jordan had overcome fatigue and finished with 45 points as he won his sixth Finals Most Valuable Player award, while reaffirming his status as the NBA's best player.
"Let's face it," said Bulls guard Steve Kerr. "We all hopped on Michael's back. He just carried us. It was his game tonight. That guy was ridiculous. He is so good it's scary."
Jordan shot 15-of-35 from the field and 12-of-15 from the line. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, including Chicago's final eight over the last 2:06, carrying the offense as Scottie Pippen -- hampered by a back injury -- struggled.
Jordan's critical steal from Malone set in motion the Bulls' climactic rally.
"We've been trying to double-team (Malone)," Jordan said. "And (Utah's Jeff) Hornacek was trying to, I guess, pick Karl Malone, and he never really cleared, which gave me an opportunity to go back. Karl never saw me coming, and I was able to knock the ball away."
Moments later, Jordan finished off the Jazz with a simple swish. With the clock ticking below 10 seconds, Jazz swingman Bryon Russell occupied Jordan's path to the basket with tight one-on-one defense. But in an instant, Russell fell for a fake, slipped to the floor, and allowed an essentially wide-open Jordan to bury the shot and play the role of hero once again.
"As soon as Russell reached, he gave me a clear lane. I made my initial drive, and he bit on it, and I stopped, pulled up and I had an easy jump shot," Jordan said. "I had a great look, and it went in. Once it went in I knew from that point on, we've been hanging around long enough, it was the game-winning basket, and it was a matter of playing solid defense. Our defense has held us strong all series, we wouldn't be in this scenario without the defense. All we had to do was play defense for 5.8 seconds, and I knew we could do that."
Said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan: "You can't afford to give them second chances, with Michael Jordan out there, he was going to make the plays, he was able to do that and you live with that."
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