Despite starting the year without Scottie Pippen, who purposefully delayed offseason surgery on his left foot, it was assumed Michael Jordan could easily lead the Bulls past the Celtics, who were coming off a dreadful 15-67 campaign, the worst in franchise history, and brought in Rick Pitino in an attempt to right the ship.
The opening-night affair appeared to be over after the first 12 minutes as Chicago held a 32-12 lead after the first quarter. But the Bulls went cold over the next two frames, scoring just 26 points, while Boston heated up during that same stretch, scoring 56 to take a 68-58 lead into the fourth.
The Bulls trimmed the lead to three late in the game, but the Celtics threw constant double-teams at Jordan and forced him into some tough shots down the stretch. MJ actually struggled shooting the ball most of the evening. While he dropped 30, he made just seven of 23 shots from the floor and 16 of 21 from the foul line. And the supporting cast couldn’t pick up the slack as Boston held on for a 92-85 upset.
Antoine Walker led the way for the Celtics with 31 points on 13-for-26 shooting, while Chauncey Billups kicked in 15 off the bench.
Here’s a look at the NBA standings following all the action on October 31, 1997.
|New Jersey Nets||1||0|
|New York Knicks||1||0|
|San Antonio Spurs||1||0|
|Golden State Warriors||0||1|
|Portland Trail Blazers||0||1|
I find it interesting that director Jason Hehir chose not to include this opening-night matchup in The Last Dance. Much was made about the Bulls’ early-season struggles, and this loss obviously fit that narrative.
There was also no mention in the doc of Rodman coming off the bench to start the season. And that wasn’t just a one-off deal. Of the 80 regular-season games in which “The Worm” appeared in 1997-98, he rode the pine to start 14 of them.
Up next for the Bulls in this “Last Dance” redux is their home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.