Bulls fall a giant step short; it’s wait till next year after loss in Game 7

From the archives: Scottie Pippen tried to fight through a migraine in the Bulls’ playoff loss to the Pistons.

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Scottie Pippen, left, drives around the Detroit Pistons Vinnie Johnson during the 1990 Eastern Conference finals.

Scottie Pippen, left, drives around the Detroit Pistons Vinnie Johnson during the 1990 Eastern Conference finals.

Jim Mone/AP

Originally published June 4, 1990

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — So close, yet so far away.

That’s the frustration the Bulls felt Sunday afternoon after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals 93-74 to the Detroit Pistons in the Palace and being eliminated from the NBA playoffs.

It marks the second straight year the Bulls were ousted by the Pistons in the conference finals.

“Naturally, I’m disappointed,” said Bulls guard Michael Jordan, whose nine assists, eight rebounds and game-high 31 points went for naught. “I’d love to be where (the Pistons) are right now. But it just wasn’t meant to be. We still are in a learning process.

“We came within a game of being where they are. Now, there’s nothing left for us to do but to look forward to next year and try to overcome this same situation and take it a step further.”

Forward Horace Grant (10 points, a game-high 14 rebounds) was the only other Bull who scored in double figures. But Grant (3-for-17 from the field) andScottie Pippen(1-for-10) had their worst shooting games of the season.

Craig Hodges, who started at shooting guard in place of injured John Paxson, was barely better at 3-for-13 as the Bulls shot a frigid 31.1 percent. Their 74 points were the fewest ever scored against the Pistons in a playoff game.

“It was a great series — kind of what I expected, although I didn’t want it to go seven games,” Pistons coach Chuck Daly said.

The defending champion Pistons advance to the best-of-seven NBA finals against Western Conference winner Portland beginning tomorrow night in the Palace.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” said Pistons playmaker Isiah Thomas, who led Detroit with 21 points, eight rebounds and a game-high 11 assists. “In terms of matchups, the teams are pretty even.”

“But they are healthy and well-rested,” Daly said. “We may be struggling come Tuesday with some of our injuries.”

Sunday, it was the Bulls who struggled from the outset. They entered the game without starting point guard Paxson, sidelined by a severely sprained right ankle. In addition, Pippen was hampered by amigraineheadache. Between trips to the bench for ice-pack treatments, he managed just two points and four rebounds in 45 minutes.

“You’re not going to see Scottie shoot 1-for-10 very often,” Bulls operations chief Jerry Krause said.

“He stayed out and played, but he wasn’t himself,” Bulls coach Phil Jackson said.

“I was only about 75 percent,” Pippen said. “The headache started (Saturday). I thought it went away because I slept well and woke up feeling fine. But it started back during warmups, and I wasn’t able to shake it. I had double vision at times. I had a hard time seeing my teammates, and I didn’t feel comfort able when I got the ball.”

The Pistons, on the other hand, felt increasingly comfortable as the game wore on.

The Bulls led 19-17 after one period. They led despite shooting 31.8 percent as the Pistons were even worse (27.3 percent).

But in the second quarter, the Bulls’ lack of depth (compounded by the absence of Paxson) and Pippen’s ineffectiveness took their toll. Mark Aguirre came off the Pistons’ bench to score 10 of his 15 total points on 5-for-6 shooting. Thomas and reserve John Salley each added seven points as the Pistons outscored the Bulls 31-14 to take the lead for keeps.

With the score tied at 25 with 8:42 left in the second, the Pistons shut down the Bulls defensively and outscored them 23-8 the rest of the period. During one stretch, the Pistons hit 14 of 15 field-goal attempts, including 10 straight, and shot 82 percent for the period. The Bulls, meanwhile, ended the period missing 11 of 12.

“It’s tough (to lose) as a leader,” Jordan said. “It’s my job to show (young teammates) how to relax and stay calm. Maybe the pressure got to us. The pressure, the nervousness and the inexperience of being the the seventh game. Nobody except perhaps Bill Cartwright has been in this situation. The inexperience killed us.”

The Pistons surged to a 22-point lead at 61-39 with 7:47 left in the third quarter before Jordan, who scored nine in the period, rallied the Bulls to within 69-59 after three. But the Bulls got no closer, shooting 28 percent in the fourth period against the Pistons’ 56 percent.

The Pistons finished the game shooting 51.4 percent, and their bench outscored the Bulls’ reserves 33-17.

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