NBA

A Dominating Easter Performance From Michael Jordan Led the ‘Bad Boys’ Detroit Pistons to Create the ‘Jordan Rules’

It’s no secret that Michael Jordan hated the Detroit Pistons back in the day and probably still does given the way the six-time NBA champion holds a grudge.

For years, Jordan and the Chicago Bulls famously struggled to get past the Pistons in the NBA playoffs as the “Bad Boys” would figuratively and literally beat up on MJ as he attempted to take his team to the next level by using a strategy known as the “Jordan Rules.” But everyone knows that, right?

But what you may not know is that the “Jordan Rules” were created after MJ once torched the Pistons for 59 points on Easter Sunday in 1988, a year in which the future six-time champ won his first NBA MVP, which led Detroit head coach Chuck Daly to implement the strategy as he knew he’d be seeing Jordan and the Bulls down the line.

So with it being Easter Sunday, we thought we’d take a look at the Michael Jordan performance that led to the creation of those “Jordan Rules.”

Michael Jordan torched the Detroit Pistons for 59 points on Easter Sunday in 1988

On April 3, 1988, which was Easter Sunday that year, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls traveled to Detroit for their fifth matchup of the season with the Pistons, who at that time were still trying to knock off the Boston Celtics as the elite team in the Eastern Conference.

In the previous four matchups between the Bulls and Pistons that season, Detroit had won three and had twice held Michael Jordan to less than 30 points, which was quite the accomplishment given the fact he averaged 35 points that season. Jordan was still averaging 33 per game against the Pistons, however, as he’d dropped 49 on the “Bad Boys” in their first meeting of the year and 36 in the second, which is the lone game Chicago won. He scored 20 and 27 in the next two, respectively.

As for the Easter Sunday matchup, Michael Jordan simply went off and refused to let the Bulls lose a third straight game to the Pistons. He scored 59 points that day, shooting an incredible 21-for-27 (77.8%) from the floor and 17-for-19 from the free-throw line to lead Chicago to a 112-110 victory and Chuck Daly had seen enough.

The Pistons created the ‘Jordan Rules’ following that game

After getting lit up by Michael Jordan on Easter Sunday to the tune of 59 points, Chuck Daly knew he had to come up with something to stop MJ as he could see that the Bulls were becoming one of the more dangerous teams in the East and realized that he’d probably be seeing them again in the postseason. Following Jordan’s 59-point outburst, he was now averaging 38.2 points per game against Detroit and Daly was sick of it.

“We made up our minds right then and there that Michael Jordan was not going to beat us by himself again. We had to commit to a total team concept to get it done.”

Detroit Pistons head coach Chuck Daly on Michael Jordan

And just like that, the “Jordan Rules” were born. Double-teaming on the perimeter and triple-teaming on the post was now mandatory for the Pistons whenever they matched up with Jordan and a strict “no layups” policy was enforced, which is why you’ve seen so many highlights over the years of Jordan getting pummeled on his way to the rim while playing against Detroit. And for a while, the “Jordan Rules” actually worked.

The ‘Jordan Rules’ worked in the playoffs as the Pistons beat Michael Jordan and the Bulls in five games

Michael Jordan during a 1988 game for the Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan | Mike Powell/Allsport

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The next time the Detroit Pistons saw Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls following that Easter Sunday was the second round of the 1988 Eastern Conference playoffs. The second-seeded Pistons had beaten the Washington Bullets in five games in the first round while the third-seeded Bulls had disposed of the Cleveland Cavaliers in five, a series in which Jordan had averaged 45.2 points.

But with the “Jordan Rules” in place, the Pistons were actually able to contain MJ in that second-round series. Detroit easily won the series in five, three of their four wins coming by double digits, and held Jordan to 27.4 points per game. Now, of course, that would be incredible for anyone else but, again, Jordan averaged 35 points in the regular season and 45.2 points against the Cavs in the first round. So 27.4 didn’t look that great by comparison.

The Pistons went on to appear in the first of three consecutive NBA Finals that season, finally getting past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals before being swept by the LA Lakers. Using the “Jordan Rules,” they went on to beat the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals in both 1989 and 1990 on the way to winning back-to-back titles before Michael Jordan & Co. finally got over the hump and famously swept the “Bad Boys” in 1991.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference