The opening game of the 1992 NBA Finals turned out to be a tale of two games, and in both scenarios it was the worst of times for the Trail Blazers to try to contain Michael Jordan. The first "game within the game" took place over the first 18 minutes as Portland, which shot 68 percent from the field in the first quarter, battled the Bulls basket for basket and trailed 45-44 with 6:34 to go in the second quarter.
Jordan's six first-half 3-pointers in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals set an NBA record.
But Jordan, who had already scored 18 points in the first quarter, keyed a 57-23 run over the next 18 minutes with one of the most dazzling individual performances in Finals history. He buried the Blazers with a barrage of 3-pointers, a record six in the first half, as the Bulls pulled away. Jordan finished the half with 35 points to set a Finals record and give the Bulls a 66-51 lead at intermission. The rout was on -- Chicago led 104-68 after three periods and the 122-89 final was just two points shy of matching the most lopsided Finals game ever.
"They dared me early," Jordan said of his long-distance efforts. "Most teams will give me that. I wasn't looking for it, but when you feel the rhythm, you have to take it."
Jordan's 35 points in the first half beat the previous mark of 33 set by Elgin Baylor in 1962. Jordan also tied a Finals record with 14 first-half baskets. He finished with 39 points, including 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range, tying the record for 3-pointers made in a game and setting the mark for attempts.
"It was like if you get in the gym and you're shooting by yourself and someone is tossing you the ball back," he said. "You have a chance to adjust shots and make shots and see the rim and get in a rhythm. That's exactly what it was.
"The first one felt so good, I had to take more. I couldn't miss. The threes were like free throws; they just kept dropping. I didn't know what was happening. I was in a zone. What can I say? I don't know how to explain it. You know it's got to end, it has to, but when? It's like it doesn't matter what they do."
Portland's Buck Williams had this to say about Jordan's incredible performance: "It's like looking down the barrel of a .57 Magnum when he shoots the ball like that. It's kind of frightening. He's sensational at driving to the basket, so we have to take his driver's license away. But we have to be concerned (about the 3-pointer). We can't let him get looks at the basket like that, or we'll be in for a very long night."
Despite his success, Michael remained the reluctant rifleman. "I don't want to live with this 'three' image too long because it takes away from some parts of my game," he said. "I start thinking on the break of going to the line and pulling up, instead of going to the basket. I like going to the hole. I like that creativity part of my game so much that if I worked on the 3-pointer, it would take away from my style and my definition of my game."
Game 1 of the Finals proved to be an aberration for Jordan, who connected on only 11 treys (in 34 attempts) in Chicago's other 21 playoff games en route to their second straight NBA Championship in 1992. Jordan averaged 35.8 points in the Finals, and was named the series MVP, as Chicago disposed of Portland in six games.