Instead of getting a shot at one of the best college players of 1986, such as Brad Daugherty, Len Bias or Kenny Walker, the Chicago Bulls will get a shot at Larry Bird.
They won’t have a chance to sign the Boston Celtics’ forward, just face him in the first round of the playoffs. This became a certainty Friday night at Chicago when the Bulls rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Washington Bullets, 105-103. With the Cleveland Cavaliers losing at Boston, the Bulls clinched the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Michael Jordan, who made only 11 of 35 shots until the final minute, then sank a jumper to give the Bulls the lead for good. He also made a free throw and had a key steal to preserve the victory.
The Bulls’ drive to the playoffs began a couple of weeks ago, after Jordan accused management of not trying to make the playoffs. He said the Bulls wanted to lose so they could pick one of the top collegians in the lottery conducted among the teams that don’t qualify for postseason play.
After his outburst, Jordan, who missed 64 games because of a broken foot, began to see more playing time. With the Cavaliers losing seven in a row, the Bulls slipped in without having to win Sunday’s season finale at Richfield, Ohio.
Jordan scored 17 of his 31 points in the first quarter, but when he hit his cold spell, the Bullets steadily built their lead to 14 points. John Paxson, who scored 23 points, led the Bulls’ rally, and Jordan finished it.
“I honestly feel better this year going into the playoffs than I did a year ago because I overcame--along with the team--a lot of adversity,” Jordan told the Associated Press. “I guess I never dreamed I’d be back in time to get into the playoffs. But give the credit for this win to Paxson and people like Gene Banks, who made some clutch baskets.”
Although they missed the playoffs, the Cavaliers won’t participate in the lottery. They owe their No. 1 pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a trade in 1980 that sent Jerome Whitehead and Richard Washington to the Cavaliers.
Boston 117, Cleveland 104--While handing the Cavaliers their seventh consecutive defeat and knocking them out of the playoffs, the Celtics extended their home winning streak to 30 games. The Cavaliers have lost 20 in a row at Boston Garden.
Kevin McHale led the Celtics with 30 points. Larry Bird played only 28 minutes and made just 4 of 13 shots.
Philadelphia 130, Indiana 122--Rookie Terry Catledge scored 30 points, and Charles Barkley had 29 points and 19 rebounds at Philadelphia to lead the 76ers to their sixth victory in a row.
Detroit 108, New York 95--The Pistons closed out the regular season at New York with a victory that gave them a 46-36 record, the same as last season.
Portland 131, Golden State 130--Jim Paxson deflected a last-second attempted layup by the Warriors’ Joe Barry Carroll to save the victory for the Trail Blazers at Oakland.
Portland had taken the lead when Clyde Drexler, who finished with 28 points, made a layup with nine seconds remaining.