Uploaded on Apr 8, 2008
They ended years of frustration. They ended the Detroit Pistons' two-year reign as champions. And now, the Chicago Bulls can begin thinking about playing in the NBA finals for the first time.
Making it look easy, the Bulls completed a four-game sweep of the Pistons with a 115-94 victory today at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Chicago dominated the Eastern Conference finals from start to finish, brushing aside the proud Pistons as if they were a nuisance instead of the defending champions.
"To say that this is unexpected, to sweep this team, is an understatement," said Phil Jackson, Chicago's coach. "But after losing to this team for three years, I think we deserve a shot."
The Pistons tried physical play, lineup changes and anything else they could think of to avoid being dethroned at home. None of it worked. The Bulls were too determined, too poised and too good to be denied. And now, Michael Jordan (29 points on 11-for-17 shooting along with nine rebounds, nine assists) and the Bulls have an impressive 11-1 record in the playoffs.
"We didn't want it any other way," said Jordan, who added more luster to his extraordinary seven-year career by reaching the NBA finals for the first time. "We wanted to beat Detroit. That way, there wouldn't be any tarnish to what we accomplished.
We surprised a lot of people, and we surprised ourselves. We didn't feel we could sweep this team, but we knew we could beat them. We had to accept every beating, every push and every elbow they gave us and stay focused on our goal. I was glad to see our team stay so focused."
Play took on a violent nature at times, and one play during the second quarter was particularly ugly. After driving to the basket, Scottie Pippen (23 points, six rebounds, 10 assists) was confronted in midair by Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman. Laimbeer shoved Pippen in the chest, then Rodman added to Pippen's pain by pushing Pippen out of bounds into the first row of seats.
Chicago turned the game into a rout in the third quarter, building a 57-50 halftime lead into an 87-70 lead after three quarters. The closer the Bulls got to victory, the more determined they became. Their swarming defense frustrated the Pistons. And their offense worked efficiently as they passed smartly, made open shots and gave the ball to Jordan whenever they were in doubt.
With 4 minutes 38 seconds left and trailing by 103-80, the Pistons conceded. Daly removed Isiah Thomas (16 points) and Joe Dumars from the game as the Pistons hugged each other on the bench, knowing their dream of winning three consecutive titles had died.
"At this point, I think Chicago's a better club than we are," Daly said. "Any club that can handle us four straight deserves to go to the finals."
These teams have met in the playoffs for four consecutive years, and there is much hostility between them. As Jackson said: "This is a team that humiliated, mocked us and beat us physically. But they were one of the toughest champions this league has seen in awhile. I think all the injuries they suffered this year took away their will to defend the title at the same level."
When it was over, the jubilant Bulls ran into their locker room, yelling and screaming. A series with either the Lakers or the Trail Blazers awaited them. But tonight, it was time to celebrate.