The Detroit Pistons had a chance to win their third straight title in 1991, but they were swept by Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. After finally getting past the Pistons, the Bulls won the championship in 1991 and 1992.
The 1992-93 Bulls were motivated to win their third consecutive championship since the Pistons never accomplished that feat. However, the Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks gave Chicago a run for its money.
Scottie Pippen: Knicks were trying to be the next Bulls
Pippen knew the 1992-93 Knicks were trying to emulate what the 1990-91 Bulls did. The All-NBA swingman could sense it by the way New York played and acted.
“They were on the come up,” Pippen said in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries. “They were trying to be the next Chicago Bulls as we were to the Detroit Pistons.”
The Pistons beat the Bulls in the 1988, 1989, and 1990 playoffs before Chicago swept them in 1991. Meanwhile, Pippen and Michael Jordan defeated New York in the 1989, 1991, and 1992 playoffs, so the Knicks were driven to destroy the Bulls in the 1993 postseason, just like Chicago was eager to sweep Detroit in 1991.
Behind Ewing, the Knicks won 60 games in 1992-93 and were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They faced Pippen and the Bulls in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals and looked like they were on their way to dethroning Chicago.
However, Pippen and Jordan wouldn’t let the Bulls lose to the Knicks.
Scottie Pippen and Bulls won series in six games
The Knicks had homecourt advantage against the Bulls and won Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden. It appeared they had finally figured out how to beat Pippen and Jordan.
However, the Bulls responded by winning Games 3 and 4 in Chicago. Pippen scored 29 points in Game 3 and 13 in Game 4, while Jordan went off for 54 points in Game 4 after struggling in Game 3. The series was now tied at 2-2, and the pressure was back on the Knicks to protect homecourt.
Game 5 is a contest Knicks fans may still get nightmares from since they were so close to winning. New York trailed 95-94 and had the ball at the end of regulation with a chance to win. However, Charles Smith got blocked and stripped by Jordan, Pippen, and Horace Grant multiple times before Grant got the ball and passed it to Jordan, who threw the ball ahead to B.J. Armstrong for the game-sealing layup. The Bulls won 97-94, and the Garden crowd was in disarray.
After stealing Game 5, Jordan and Pippen finished off the Knicks in Game 6 at home. The duo combined for 49 points to lead Chicago to a 96-88 victory. The Bulls were back in the Finals for the third straight season, while the Knicks were once again eliminated by their arch-nemesis.
Jordan and Pippen needed four more wins to capture their consecutive title and establish the Bulls as one of the best dynasties in sports history. The Hall of Famers, who won the 1992 gold medal with Ewing, had to get their four wins against another member of the Dream Team.
Charles Barkley stood in Chicago’s way
Charles Barkley won the 1992-93 MVP and led the Phoenix Suns to the best record in the NBA. Just like in the conference finals against the Knicks, Pippen and the Bulls didn’t have homecourt advantage in the Finals.
However, it didn’t matter. Chicago won all three games in Phoenix and once at home to capture the championship in six games. Jordan averaged 41.0 points in the series, while Pippen put up 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game.
Jordan retired in October 1993, leaving Pippen in charge of the Bulls. The small forward finished third in MVP voting in 1993-94 and led Chicago to 55 wins. However, the Bulls lost to the Knicks in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals in seven games.
During the Ewing era, New York reached the Finals twice, losing both times. Jordan wasn’t in the NBA the two times the Knicks won the East. MJ and Pippen had a stranglehold on the Knickerbockers and prevented the franchise from having success in the postseason while they played together.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference