The Chicago Bulls found themselves in deep trouble in Game 6 of the 1992 NBA Finals. Chicago trailed the Portland Trail Blazers by double digits heading into the fourth quarter and, without some heroics from Michael Jordan, seemed destined to play in a Game 7. Only, Jordan wasn’t anywhere to be found as the final period began.
Bulls head coach Phil Jackson made the bold decision to begin the fourth quarter with a lineup comprised chiefly of bench players. Jordan watched as his replacement, a man who played sparingly for Chicago, jumpstarted a huge run to get the Bulls back into the game. It was only then that MJ entered the contest and took things into his own hands.
Bob Hansen started the fourth quarter of Game 6 in place of Michael Jordan and immediately made an impact
Michael Jordan and the Bulls struggled through the first three quarters of Game 6, so Phil Jackson decided to shake things up.
Jackson began the fourth quarter with a lineup of bench players plus Scottie Pippen. One of those players was Bob Hansen, a veteran 2-guard who averaged just over 11 minutes per contest during the regular season. Hansen replaced Jordan in the rotation, and he shockingly made two plays to help give the Bulls momentum.
Chicago trailed by 15 points at the start of the period when Hansen drilled a three-pointer from the corner. He promptly stripped Blazers forward Jerome Kersey underneath the basket, leading to a Pippen score. The Bulls were suddenly showing signs of life as the Blazers called for time.
Jackson could have gone back to the starters at this stage. But, as Hansen remembered, the Zen Master stuck with the bench unit. He also had a stark message for Hansen.
“In the huddle, Phil said, ‘Calm down, you’re doing a good job,'” Hansen said, via The Gazette. “Then he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Don’t eff it up.'”
Hansen and the rest of the second group kept the ball rolling. The Bulls clawed to within three points, at which point a fresh Jordan reentered the fray and made his mark on the contest.
Jordan finished what Hansen and the reserves started
The Bulls had successfully caught the Blazers, and Michael Jordan now looked to finish them off.
It took just 3:30 for Pippen, Hansen, and the rest of Chicago’s ragtag lineup of scrappers to launch a 14-2 run. It was time for MJ to put things away, and he assured Hansen he would bring the Bulls across the finish line.
Jordan had struggled to find a rhythm for most of the contest. But he seemed to draw energy from the Bulls’ stunning comeback.
The six-time NBA Finals MVP scored 10 of Chicago’s last 12 points. Jordan finished the contest with 33 points and kept Chicago in command to clinch the second end of back-to-back titles. However, he never would have had that opportunity if Hansen and the bench guys failed to get the ball rolling and bring the Bulls back from the brink.
His Airness got huge contributions from his supporting cast at the most vital of times
Michael Jordan’s Bulls teammates rarely snatched the spotlight from MJ. Yet they also seemed to make their presence felt at the most pivotal junctures of big games.
John Paxson hit several key jump shots during Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals and drilled the game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals. Steve Kerr knocked down a go-ahead jumper to win Game 6 of the 1997 Finals after Utah Jazz guard John Stockton came over to double Jordan.
It was more of a collective effort in 1992, with Hansen and guys like Stacey King, BJ Armstrong, and Scott Williams doing their part to help Pippen get the Bulls back into the mix. The Game 6 run was essential, mainly because a victory would have given the Blazers the momentum after losing Game 5.
Of course, Jordan still had to close the show, but that was something he seldom failed to do spectacularly. In truth, he was on the bench when the Bulls faced their potential do-or-die moment.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.