Cavs V. Bulls Almost Live Blog


It’s not 1989, and it’s not May, but I’m going to watch the fourth quarter of game 5 of the first round series between Cleveland and Chicago – The Shot for those who don’t know – and I’m taking you with me.

This was far from Michael Jordan’s first televised clutch moment or his first big playoff game. The 1982 NCAA title game is the former, and the 1986 record-setting 63 points against Boston is the latter.

It’s been a game dominated by the guards thus far. Ron Harper, Mark Price, and Michael Jordan. Even Hodges played pretty well. You can really see what a devastating loss to the team’s versatility it was when Harper went to the Clippers. I’ve been very impressed by Cleveland’s defensive rotations. They really helped each other out a lot, and everybody played pretty good defense overall. Even Price was a better athlete than I remember and could cause some havoc. Harper and Craig Ehlo were very sound. Larry Nance and John Williams (Hotrod to those who know) were physical, athletic forwards, and Brad Daugherty, while no shotblocker, was strong and played tough post D. Shot-blocking specialist Tree Rollins came off the bench with Ehlo.

Chicago was still getting it together after a rough year after the team traded top rebounder and tough guy Charles Oakley for post scoring specialist Bill Cartwright. The game has really shown how dependent Chicago was on Jordan for just about everything. Reminds me quite a bit of Miami last year with Wade. Or Cleveland of 2 years ago with LeBron James. Scottie Pippen wasn’t quite himself yet, so Mike brought the ball up. Horace Grant was getting there, but Jordan still pulled down a lot of the important rebounds. Craig Hodges was probably the most reliable starter next to Michael, though he was strictly a three point shooter with almost no playmaking skills at the second guard position.

OK. 4th quarter.

Bulls 69 Cavs 75

Price is sitting, and his backup beats Hodges to the paint and kicks out to Ehlo for a deep make.

Mike comes off the pick and roll and gets swallowed up by a triple team. Gets it back. Misses a J that Grant tips in.

Ehlo hits a jumper in transition.

Jordan pushes it up into the paint and draws a foul. Hits both free throws after having trouble at the line in the first half.

Tree Rollins with a horrible hook. Ugg. That had all the grace of Rocky pummeling a side of beef. Poor rim.

Hodges misses a layup in transition, but Grant tips another one in.

Scottie Pippen rejects Ehlo and takes it in transition. Fouled.

If you couldn’t tell, this game is really being played at an ’80s pace with a strong emphasis on transition scoring. It’s interesting to watch in contrast to today’s more conservative game. I’m not really reminded of 7 seconds or less. It’s a little more organic and a little less organized than D’Antoni’s methods.

Cavs 79 – Bulls 75

Daugherty, Cartwright, and Grant all have 4 fouls or better.

Pippen has been even worse than Jordan from the line.

Elho cans another 3 off a Price kickout.

Jordan hits a short J off the pick and roll.

Pippen called for a tough foul on Nance on a broken play. Scottie’s got 4.

Great ball movement that led to a miss on a good shot opportunity – Hotrod to Price quick drive and kick to Nance swing to Harper for a baseline J. Really had Chicago shifting.

Pippen TO leads to 2 free throws made by Price. Another transition play.

Jordan again trapped hard off the pick and roll. Missed J by Pip on the kick out leads to an And 1 by Harper. Cavs are small and fast with Price, Harper, Ehlo, and Nance out there. Really terrific team that never got to mature and couldn’t stay healthy.

Bulls have had a ton of turnovers trying to feed the post. Cartwright can’t move to meet the ball, and Scottie and Hodges are taking tough angles. Another TO.

Harper fakes a three. Jordan keeps his feet. Harper hits a running pull-up directly over MJ. Nice!

Jordan comes back and blows by Ehlo. Harper whacks him. Mike to the line. 1 for 2. Harper shows no intimidation at all. Not bad for a 2nd year guy.

Daugherty’s back. Jordan pulls down a board right over his old Carolina teammate. Mike keeps grabbing tough boards in this game.

Ehlo is bodying the hell out of Michael. Jordan loses him on a give and go and hits a short J.

Cartwright and Grant trap Nance on the sideline, and he turns it over.

Michael misses a rushed reverse scoop against pretty much all of the Cavaliers. The paint was really crowded. I think I saw a cheerleader and a hotdog vender out there. Harper releases and Price hits him with a great lead pass. Foul on Hodges. Replay shows a clean strip. Harper 2 for 2.

Hodges brings the ball up for once. Jordan loses Elho off a nice downscreen, catches top of the circle, drives to the rim for 2, and hits the free throw on the And 1.

Ehlo comes right back and hits a big 3 off a Price penetration.

Cartwright scores in the post.

Grant fouls out on a rebound scrum with 1:35 left. The immortal Brad Sellers enters and Nance buries his freebies. Time out Chicago.

Cavs 95 Bulls 94

Out of the timeout Jordan catches the ball off a double screen, dribbles around, dragging two defenders. Draws a third and kicks to Scottie who nails a three. Bulls by 2! Time out Cavs.

Bulls 97 Cavs 95 1:06 remaining.

Ehlo hits a 3 off a kickout from a Harper / Daugherty pick and roll. Cavs by one!

Jordan takes to the rim looking for contact. No basket. No whistle. No argument from Mike or Doug Collins. Cleveland takes the board.

Price drive and kick to Nance who misses the 16 footer. Ehlo loses the rebound out of bounds. Time out Chicago.

Cavs 98 Bulls 97 0:18 remaining.

Cavs press full court. Pippen gets it across the line. Jordan beats Ehlo off the dribble and nails a high release J over Nance. Time out Cavs.

Bulls 99 – Cavs 98 0:06 remaining.

Give and go off the entry pass. Ehlo to Nance right back to Ehlo for the layup and the lead! Jordan got lost trapping Nance, and with no Grant there was no shotblocker to rotate to Craig. Great play out of the time out by Lenny Wilkens. Ehlo has had a huge 4th quarter. Bulls time out.

Cavs 100 – Bulls 99 0:03 remaining.

Sellers to inbound. Jordan breaks a trap by Nance and Ehlo, darts to the sideline, catch, dribble, elevates at the foul line and wins it with The Shot! He and coach Collins simultaneously lose their minds.

It’s interesting to see the shape of the players back then. They were skinnier than today – less weightlifting. They were also remarkably tall. Other than Price and Hodges there was nobody under 6′ 6″ out there at all. Nance and Sellers played the small forward at 6′ 10″ and 7′ respectively.

The perimeter game was a different animal back then to be sure. Of course there was a lot more contact, but the moves tended to come much faster. Jordan was really the only player to use the dribble as a weapon in and of itself. Price would change speed and direction, but he pretty much looked to take a lane only if the defense reacted to a set play or he had an opening in transition. Same with Harper (though he embarrassed Pippen on one drive in the 3rd quarter). The guards, except for Hodges, all seemed very comfortable improvising on broken plays as well. In today’s more structured game that’s not always the case. It sort of reminded me of the Warriors team that beat the Mavs a few years ago. Everybody had a lot of skills and could adapt well. Harper in particular impressed me. It’s too bad about his knee, or he really might have had the skills to develop into the third best shooting guard of his generation. No offense to Reggie Miller or Mitch Richmond.

Post play was limited in the fourth because all the principal bigs were in foul trouble and Chicago moved Jordan out of the post in the late third when the Cavs started trapping hard (yes Mike had his turnaround as early as ’89, though he didn’t really fade back then). Prior to that Cartwright and Jordan had some success for the Bulls. Cleveland really did most of its damage off the drive, though they controlled the boards in the early going and got some nice second chance buckets from their bigs.

It was also fun to watch the Bulls not know they would win. Even Jordan looked a little worried at times. You didn’t see that after the first title. There was a vulnerability to both young clubs that was endearing. They were the future, but they were most definitely not quite there yet. Cleveland lost Harper and suffered serious injury problems with Price and Daugherty. If not for those unfortunate factors, this might have been THE rivalry of the ’90s.


2 Responses to “Cavs V. Bulls Almost Live Blog”

  1. Kelli Garner Says:

    Great site, how do I subscribe?

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