Michael Jordan had his share of remarkable playoff performances during his Chicago Bulls tenure, including and especially during the NBA Finals. But Jordan also sent messages to upstart contenders and rising stars such as Glen Rice.
The Heat were one of four NBA expansion teams between 1988 and 1989. Miami made its first playoff appearance just a few years later during the 1991-92 campaign. However, MJ quickly showed Rice and the Heat he was on an entirely different planet.
Michael Jordan destroyed Glen Rice and the Miami Heat in their inaugural playoff berth
The Miami Heat probably were going to have a hard time beating the defending champion Chicago Bulls even with the power of God. As it turned out, God might have been playing for the other team. Or, as Reggie Miller liked to say, “Black Jesus.”
Glen Rice and the Heat were likely just happy to be in the playoffs. Still, Jordan did his best to make the experience a painful one. He averaged a whopping 45.0 points over the course of three games, also posting 9.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 3.0 steals per contest.
Jordan got whatever he wanted throughout the series. He shot 60.9% from the field and averaged over 10 free-throw attempts per game, slicing and dicing through Miami’s defense and finishing at the rim seemingly with ease.
The most spectacular performance came in Game 3. After pouring in 46 points in the series opener, MJ scored 56 points in the finale. He scored 54 of those 56 points in just three quarters. Air Jordan also dominated on the other end, racking up four steals and a pair of blocks.
Indeed, despite his scoring prowess, it was a defensive play Jordan made that really left an imprint on Rice, who was coming into his own as one of the better scoring wings in the game.
Jordan’s basketball talent and acumen left Rice awestruck
Rice said the Heat entered the series with a sense of nothing to lose. He didn’t realize the clinic Jordan was about to put on against a playoff newcomer.
The three-time All-Star looked back on that 1992 series during a podcast interview with Heat.com in May 2020. Rice explained Miami was essentially praying MJ would simply miss or get out of his rhythm somehow. Jordan’s offense was incredible, but his Game 2 block on Rice ultimately proved all the more impressive.
Casual basketball fans might forget the elite defender Money was at the 2-guard.
Michael Jordan won a Defensive Player of the Year Award with the Bulls. He ranks third all-time in steals and was named All-Defensive First Team nine times. That’s tied with Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant for the most in NBA history.
His Airness had the scoring ability. He played the passing lanes, hounded ball-handlers, and rotated from the weak side to block shots. He did all of those things against the Heat in 1992, which might have been his best individual playoff run.
The Bulls had a difficult road to the 1992 NBA title
The Bulls faced their share of difficulties in winning back-to-back NBA titles.
After dispatching the Heat, Chicago was battered and bruised by a New York Knicks team that took the Bulls to the limit in the conference semifinals. The Cleveland Cavaliers also gave Jordan and Co. a stiff challenge through the first four games of the conference finals. Finally, MJ had to quell any doubts that he was the best player in basketball by defeating Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals.
It was a long and winding road. Michael Jordan dominated through it all. He averaged 34.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on nearly 50% shooting from the field. He captured his second NBA championship and created some indelible memories for Glen Rice and others along the way.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.
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