On to the finals
Bulls outlast Pacers in grueling Game 7
Posted: Monday July 20, 1998 04:31 PM
CHICAGO (CNN/SI) -- The Chicago Bulls, given
chance after chance by the Indiana Pacers, will
have a chance at their third straight NBA title.
The two-time defending champions, playing their first Game 7 in four
years, overcame surprisingly poor shooting by Michael Jordan
Pippen with timely offensive rebounding in an 88-83 victory that
vaulted the Bulls into the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.
Chicago held a huge 22-4 edge on the offensive glass as repeated missed
shots were turned into second chances and crucial points. In a game that
saw Jordan and Pippen misfire on a combined 28 shots, the Bulls scored 24
points after misses.
Jordan scored 28 points on 9-of-25 shooting, failing to score from the
field for the last 7 1/2 minutes. Pippen added 17 on 6-of-18 shooting. But
it did not matter how many shots they missed, because the Pacers could not
get the rebounds that would have put them in the Finals for the first time.
"We definitely got the effort from our players, but the difference in the
game was that we got beat to loose balls and on the boards," Pacers coach
Larry Bird said. "We've talked about offensive boards all year. Tonight we
were just overmatched. The number of offensive rebounds they got ripped our
Even with league rebound leader Dennis Rodman
limited to six boards, the Bulls held a 50-34 edge on the glass. Pippen
pulled down 12 and Jordan and Luc Longley
grabbed nine apiece. Pippen and Jordan combined for 11 offensive rebounds.
"This series and this game was a test of our will to determine if we're
still championship caliber," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "We were able
to answer that in a positive way tonight."
Pippen also made two big shots down the stretch and the Bulls held the
Pacers scoreless over the final 2:05 as they reached the Finals for the
sixth time in eight years. They have never lost in the championship round
and begin a rematch with the Jazz on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.
"Not having home court is going to definitely be to Utah's advantage,"
Jordan said. "But nobody has taken anything away from us yet. We're still
the champions and that's how we're going to think when we go into this
"I believe they are more vulnerable now," Pacers center Rik Smits said. "I
think they showed it today and they showed it in the series. But they're
the better team. They beat us."
scored 14 of his 21 points in the third quarter for Chicago, which shot 38
percent (29-of-76) but overcame an early 13-point deficit with a boost from
its bench. Reserve guard Steve Kerr
contributed 11 points.
"Kukoc is the guy tonight who really stepped up big for us," Jackson said.
"Without his contribution and Steve Kerr's open looks off the bench, we
don't stay in this game."
"We were able to win this game with defense and that's been a keynote for
us throughout our championship runs," Jordan said. "I give our bench a lot
of credit. Kerr gave us some huge minutes."
Indiana's Reggie Miller
scored 22 points, but none over the last 15:30. He attempted just one shot
in the fourth quarter -- an airball that Antonio Davis
converted into the Pacers' only hoop off an offensive rebound with 2:05
left, cutting the deficit to 85-83.
Rik Smits scored 13 points and Mark Jackson had
11 for Indiana, which fell to 0-3 in seventh games of the conference finals
and failed in a bid to become the first team from the defunct ABA to reach
the Finals. The Pacers shot 48 percent (27-of-56).
"I thought we had been good enough to come in and win this series," Bird
said. "But our early foul trouble killed us. Personally, I couldn't care
less about the Bulls. Our goal is to win a championship. We didn't."
After Miller's miss, Pippen beat him down the floor and threw in a running
hook as Davis fouled out. Pippen missed the free throws, but Jordan
rebounded, killing valuable time.
The Pacers tried to go to Smits, who scored nine points in the final
period. But Jackson's entry pass was stolen by Harper with 1:22 left, and
Jordan's miss was rebounded by Harper as the Bulls took the clock below 30
"Rebounding is a huge part of our offense," Phil Jackson said. "One of the
reasons we do well in that area is we have a lot of people around the
boards. We have a sense of just being there when the shots are going up."
Indiana's Derrick McKey
forced a three-pointer and Harper was fouled with 8.9 seconds left, making
a free throw to seal the seventh win of the series by the home team.
"I think both teams expended a lot of energy in the first three quarters,"
Miller said. "I think the fourth quarter was pretty much a drag-out fight.
In the end, they got too many second-chance shots at the basket. They won
the battle of the boards. That proved to be decisive."
Nerves and fatigue were evident in the first Game Seven of the postseason.
There were 63 fouls, with Chicago missing 17-of-41 free throws and Indiana
The Bulls widened a three-point halftime lead to 69-61 behind Kukoc, who
was 5-of-5 in the third quarter, including a trio of three-pointers. But
Chicago went scoreless over the final 2:17 of the period, as Dale Davis made
free throws around a layup by Game Six hero Travis Best to
cut the deficit to 69-65. Davis had nine points and nine rebounds but was
3-of-10 from the line.
Two baskets by Jalen Rose opened
the fourth quarter and tied the game and a three-point play by Smits after
an airball layup by Jordan gave Indiana a 72-69 lead with 8:54 to play.
Jordan ended Chicago's 10-shot dry spell of 6:44 -- and his own personal
drought of seven shots -- with a follow shot with 7:53 remaining. Smits
made a free throw before Jordan drove for a dunk -- his last basket -- and
drew a foul with 7:28 to go.
His free throw gave the Bulls the lead, but Smits converted a three-point
play and Antonio Davis made a foul shot before the game's telling sequence.
McKey stripped Jordan on a drive and a jump ball between the 7-4 Smits and
6-5 Jordan was called. Smits tipped the ball straight to Pippen, who found
Kerr for a three-pointer that tied it at 77-77 with 6:07 left.
Antonio Davis made a banker, but Jordan tied it with two foul shots and
Pippen made a jumper after his offensive rebound to give the Bulls the lead
for good at 81-79 with 4:45 remaining. A jumper by Longley -- his only
basket of the game -- moved the margin to four points with 3:25 left.
The Bulls had more to lose and it showed in the early going. Everyone
appeared tentative, including Jordan, who was playing in his first Game 7
in six years. Chicago quickly fell behind as Indiana calmly executed its
Jordan's follow shot 91 seconds into the game -- his only basket in five
first-quarter shots -- gave Chicago a 5-4 lead, but Indiana scored the next
10 points. Smits and Dale Davis had four apiece and a turnaround jumper by
Davis extended the lead to 14-5 with 7:45 remaining.
Even after a timeout, the Bulls continued to struggle and the Pacers, who
made their first eight shots, widened the advantage to 20-7 on a free throw
by Jackson with 5:41 left, silencing the sellout crowd at the United
Pippen scored the first six points in a 7-0 burst and Harper's free throw
pulled Chicago within 20-14 with 3:29 left. Indiana held a 27-19 lead after
one quarter, shooting 67 percent (10-of-15) while holding Chicago to 26
Rose's free throw opened the second quarter before the Bulls finally
snapped out of it and got back in the game with their defense, rebounding
and bench. Kukoc scored and Jordan had a pair of baskets around a
three-pointer by Kerr to forge a 28-28 tie.
Jordan's moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading playoff
scorer with a basket with 7:44 left. Jordan has 5,786 points, 24 more than
Rose scored Indiana's first basket of the period with 7:03 left, but Kerr
made two free throws and another three-pointer to give Chicago a 36-32 lead
with 4:53 remaining. After a free throw by McKey, Jordan hit a turnaround
jumper and two foul shots as the Bulls opened a 40-33 advantage with 3:48
"I thought the difference for us tonight was the bench contributing big
minutes for us," Pippen said.
With Smits and Antonio Davis on the bench with three fouls, the Bulls
continually got second shots and held their seven-point lead until the
final minute, when Miller made two three-pointers to close the gap to
Burrell's layup beat the horn and gave Chicago a three-point halftime
Indiana surrendered 15 offensive rebounds in the first half and shot just
38.5 percent (5-of-13) in the second period.