‘The Last Dance’ Redux: Michael Jordan and the Bulls Cough Up a Huge Halloween Lead to Kick Off the 1997-98 Season With a Loss to the Celtics

The two-time defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls kicked off their 1997-98 “Last Dance” season on the road with what was supposed to be an easy Halloween night matchup with the Boston Celtics.

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.

Jason Caffey scored 13 points for Chicago, while Toni Kukoc chipped in a dozen. Dennis Rodman, who came off the bench, added 10 points and nine rebounds.

BullsPTSREBASTSTLBLK
Michael Jordan306421
Toni Kukoc124231
Ron Harper13440
Jason Caffey138220
Luc Longley85002
Steve Kerr52100
Dennis Rodman109000
Randy Brown21111
Scott Burrell23101
Jud Buechler20100
Joe Kleine00000
Bill Wennington00000
CelticsPTSREBASTSTLBLK
Antoine Walker318252
Travis Knight813202
Dana Barros66300
Ron Mercer115100
Walter McCarty96311
Bruce Bowen86100
Dee Brown20000
Chauncey Billups152420
Andrew Declercq23210
John Thomas02010
Pervis Ellison01000

Here’s a look at the NBA standings following all the action on October 31, 1997.

Eastern ConferenceWL
Atlanta Hawks10
Boston Celtics10
Detroit Pistons10
Miami Heat10
Milwaukee Bucks10
New Jersey Nets10
New York Knicks10
Charlotte Hornets01
Chicago Bulls01
Cleveland Cavaliers01
Indiana Pacers01
Orlando Magic01
Philadelphia 76ers01
Toronto Raptors01
Washington Wizards01
Western ConferenceWL
Dallas Mavericks10
Houston Rockets10
LA Lakers10
Minnesota Timberwolves10
Phoenix Suns10
San Antonio Spurs10
Seattle Supersonics10
Sacramento Kings00
Denver Nuggets01
Golden State Warriors01
LA Clippers01
Portland Trail Blazers01
Utah Jazz01
Vancouver Grizzlies01

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.

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