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Air force three: Record effort from Jordan paces blowout

Read the Sun-Times’ original story from the night of “The Shrug,” when MJ hit six three-pointers in the first half of a win over the Trail Blazers.

Michael Jordan shrugs after hitting another three-pointer against Portland during the 1992 NBA Finals.
Sun-Times

Originally published June 4, 1992.

Those among a sold-out Stadium crowd will tell everyone they were there.

Twenty years from now, half the population of Chicago will claim they saw it.

Ask Michael Jordan, and he’ll tell you he felt all alone.

Sure, Jordan heard the screaming of fans and felt the hugs from his teammates. But when he was busy setting NBA Finals records in the first half of the Bulls’ 122-89 blowout Wednesday of the Portland Trail Blazers, he was in a zone of his own.

”You just have a chance to adjust shots and make shots and see the rim and get in a rhythm. . . . That’s exactly what it was.”

Exactly what it was will be something for historians to decide. Jordan added to a career of highlights with a 14-of-21 shooting performance in the first half, including 6 of-9 from three-point range.

It will be remmebered with his 69-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and his 63-point playoff record against the Boston Celtics. It was the best half Jordan has played.

”I’ve never seen anything better,” Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. “It was the best offensive barrage I’ve ever seen.”

So overwhelming was his output that the Bulls went into their locker room with a 15-point lead despite the fact the Blazers were shooting 60 percent (21-of-35) from the field.

”It was probably the most impressive half I’ve had in the playoffs,” Jordan said. “I was surprising myself. I knew what was happening. I was hitting everything I threw up.

In the locker room at halftime, Jordan said he repeatedly was approached by grinning teammates asking: “What did you have to eat?” “What are you doing?” “How?”

The “how” was easy. He did it from long range, short range on a rebound dunk and numerous fadeaway jumpers.

”I told them I was just taking what they were giving me,” Jordan said.

His teammates wanted some, too. They opened the third quarter with a 15-2 run and outscored the Blazers 25-7 in the first seven minutes of the period. Scottie Pippen scored 16 of his 25 points in the period, including a three-point play with 2:21 left that gave the Bulls a 100-62 lead.

”Michael was on a roll, and you get caught up in it,” said Scott Williams, who tied his career playoff high with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting and grabbed a career playoff-high nine rebounds in 28 minutes.

”When we play together like we did tonight, there aren’t too many teams that can beat us.”

By the time the third quarter was over, the Bulls held a 104-68 lead - a new Finals record breaking a 31-point advantage the Trail Blazers had on the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977.

The Blazers were outscored 38-17 in the third period and suffered through their lowest-scoring quarter of the playoffs.

Jordan finished with 39 points on 16-of-27 shooting. He broke Elgin Baylor’s Finals record of 33 points in one half that was set in 1962, a year before Jordan was born.

He also tied Michael Cooper and Bill Laimbeer for most three-pointers in a game with six.

What’s it like to share a record with Laimbeer, Michael?

”Tied Laimbeer?” an incredulous Jordan said. “I wish you’d told me that, and I would have shot more.”

Jordan added a team-high 11 assists. Pippen finished a rebound short of a triple-double with 24 points, 10 assists and nine boards, and Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong each scored 11. Every player on the Bulls scored except Craig Hodges, who did not play because of a sprained right ankle.

”One bright spot is we held Michael to four points in the second half,” Trail Blazers coach Rick Adelman said.

Clyde Drexler and Cliff Robinson each scored 16 to lead the Trail Blazers. Terry Porter added 13 points, 10 of them in the first quarter.

”Right now it feels great because we have one game won,” Jordan said. “I had a great achievement, and we won the first game. But I want to do more to win three more games.

”Then I might sit back and look at it all and say: ‘Gosh, it was a crazy series. And on that one particular night, I shot the heck out of the ball.”