Bulls vs. Knicks 1997. Jordan 51 pts. (Van Gundy 'Con' Game)





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Published on Aug 3, 2007

Here's the game which was removed a while ago. If I recall correctly, this is a different broadcast than Hoops so there shouldn't be a problem.

January 21, 1997

OK, you know the story. A few days before this game, Jeff Van Gundy says in a radio interview that Jordan sometimes tries to "con" his opponents by befriending them off the court only to torch them on it. Well, Jordan sees Van Gundy's words on Chicago newspapers and... the rest is in the video.

That aside, Bulls have some major problems coming into this game. Harper is injured and Rodman is suspended for kicking a cameraman. Randy Brown and Jason Caffey are the Bulls starters along with Jordan, Pippen and Longley.

Here are some interesting facts about the game:

* Knicks were the #1 defensive team in the NBA in 1996-97, measured by points allowed per 100 possessions. Jordan had another 50 point game this season which was against Miami Heat. Not surprisingly, Miami was the #2 defensive team that year.

* In addition to scoring 58% of Bulls points, Jordan also guards Allan Houston in the entire game and totally frustrates him. Houston misses 12 of his first 13 shots. (Finishes with 5-18).

* Bulls score 14 points in the 4th quarter. Jordan scores 12 of them and assists on the other two, a dunk by Caffey.

* Jordan shoots 18-for-30 (60%) from the floor. The rest of the team are 16-for-46 (35%).

* Jordan goes 5-for-8 from 3-point range. The other Bulls are 3-for-17 from beyond the arc.

* Pippen scores 15 points on 6-15 shooting. 13 of those points come in the first quarter.

* Two Bulls starters, Randy Brown and Longley, each finishes with just two points and four turnovers.

* With no Rodman around, Knicks grab 21 offensive rebounds.

Post game notes & quotes:

CHICAGO - Jeff Van Gundy picked a fight with the biggest Bully on the NBA block.

You know the line, "You don't tug on Superman's cape." Well, in this league you don't knock Michael Jordan and not expect a quick and lethal response. Last night, Jordan reacted to the New York Knick coach's comments the only way he knows how.

Jordan scored 51 points - the most by an NBA player this season - including two crucial jumpers in the final 1:08, as the new-look Knicks experienced an old result, the Bulls escaping with an 88-87 victory at the United Center.

Where's the rest of the world's greatest team?

Dennis Rodman, suspended by the NBA, is in California chilling out. Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc are in the midst of shooting slumps. Ron Harper has missed five games with a sore back. And Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, Randy Brown and Jason Caffey have provided little support.

So the team has become a one-man operation.

"I was prepared to do whatever it took to win," said Jordan, who reached the 50-point mark for the 36th time in his career. "There were times where things were going so well everything seemed to be in slow motion. I didn't rush. I just relaxed and played."

Van Gundy, in his first full season as the Knicks' coach, said recently that Jordan tries to "con" fellow NBA players into thinking he's their friend.

"His way is to befriend them, soften them up, try to make them feel he cares about them," Van Gundy said. "Then he goes out there and tries to destroy them. The first step as a player is to realize that and don't go for it."

The comments resurfaced in Tuesday's Chicago Tribune, where Jordan saw them.

"It was probably a tactical mistake by the coach of the Knicks to attack Michael in the press. I thought he went out and played with a vendetta, a score to settle," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said.

After Jordan reached the 51-point mark with a 20-foot, fade-away jumper over Allan Houston - giving the Bulls an 88-81 lead with 26.7 seconds left - he yelled at Van Gundy.

"Some choice words," Jordan said of his offerings to Van Gundy.

"I think he said, `Calm down, you little hockey puck' - or something like that, something to that effect. I think he was talking about the hockey all-star game." said Van Gundy, attempting to downplay the obvious significance.

"Guess I didn't make any friends out there tonight," cracked Jordan.

"I think those words were more geared to motivating his players. But I don't think, on the court, they have befriended me," said Jordan, who counts New York's Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley as friends.

"I don't go on the court expecting to make friends. But when I leave the court, I don't take what happened on the court away from me. We're only playing a game. I don't view it as a war away from the game. If he feels like I take advantage of my friends, that's fine."

Van Gundy said after the game that his comments were meant as a compliment.

"He uses every weapon to his advantage - some physical, some mental. I respect that," said Van Gundy, whose team has dropped five straight regular-season games to the defending champions and lost to the Bulls in last year's playoffs. "I just say that if you fall into the trap of thinking he's your friend, he'll kill you."

In besting his own 50-point performance of Nov. 6, Jordan improved his average to 31 points - 4 1/2 more than anyone else - as he goes for his ninth NBA scoring title.

The league's all-time leader in points per game, Jordan was 18-of-30 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, and 10-of-11 from the line. The rest of the Chicago team shot 35 percent from the floor, and Jordan scored 12 of the Bulls' 14 fourth-quarter points.

Chris Childs and Jordan each received a technical foul in the first half after arguing on the court.

"It had a lot to do with the way Van Gundy has geared his players up to challenge me," Jordan said. "I don't have any ill feelings toward Childs."

Jordan does hope to take advantage of some friends - his teammates - when the Bulls play Thursday night at Cleveland. Harper is expected to come off the injured list, and the slumps of Pippen and Kukoc can't last forever.

"This team has always been able to bounce back," Jordan said. "That's what has made us great."

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