Pippen Returns, Helps Send 76ers Home : Eastern Conference: After mourning his father, he scores 29 points and Jordan has 37 as the Bulls finish off Philadelphia, 117-99.
All two days off did was create false hope for the Philadelphia 76ers, not rejuvenate them.
All the extra time did for Scottie Pippen was allow him a few more days to mourn his father.
But when it came time to play basketball again Wednesday night, nothing had changed. The Chicago Bulls, lifted by the return of Pippen and the typical above-mere-mortal play of Michael Jordan, finished off the Philadelphia 76ers, 117-99, at Chicago Stadium.
By winning the series, four games to one, the Bulls earned a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, beginning Sunday at Auburn Hills, Mich. For the second consecutive year, they will play the Detroit Pistons, defending NBA champions.
If Game 5 seemed special to Chicago, Pippen made the circumstances seem regular-season by comparison. This was the first time he was with teammates in four days, having missed Sunday’s game in Philadelphia in order to return to Arkansas for the funeral of his father, who died Saturday after a lengthy illness.
Pippen, an all-star who was averaging 20.6 points during the playoffs, second best on the Bulls behind Jordan’s 40.6, went to his old high school a few times during the time away to shoot baskets. He said it helped.
But what transpired Wednesday night, before 18,676, went far beyond that: 29 points on 13-of-17 shooting and six rebounds in 37 minutes.
“It was kind of a great thing,” said Pippen, the youngest of 12 children. “There were still moments when I thought of my dad, when I tended to focus in on what has happened the last week. But I tried to block it out and play basketball.”
He didn’t start, a decision Coach Phil Jackson hinted at Tuesday. But Pippen entered less than four minutes into the game, made seven of his first nine shots and rolled up 16 points and five rebounds by halftime.
Jordan had 21 of his 37 points at intermission, but the Bulls still trailed, 63-62. Credit an 11-4 start by the 76ers, who made 62.8% of their shots the first two quarters. Turned out that merely set up the obligatory second-half charge, Part IV, by Chicago.
The Bulls, looking for their fifth consecutive homecourt win over Philadelphia, didn’t waste time, either.
Chicago went to a 76-65 lead in the first 4:12 of the third quarter. A 14-2 surge, and suddenly the other shoe had dropped. The 76ers, an obviously exhausted group in Game 4, were looking the part again.
Of course, they didn’t have far to go.
Rick Mahorn was hobbling from the minute he stepped onto the court for warmups before the game, his left knee heavily wrapped to fight tendinitis.
Key reserve Derek Smith did not suit up because of his own case of tendinitis, just as in 12 of the previous 13 games, including all five of the series.
Charles Barkley cleared 13 rebounds, six on the offensive end, to finish with an average of 17 per outing against the Bulls, but his energy was waning, too.
As much as nothing could stop Jordan from scoring, nothing, it seemed, could stop the 76ers from summer vacation.
“The bottom line is they were just a better team than us,” Barkley said, adding Philadelphia was, in many ways, lucky to beat Cleveland in the five-game first-round series. “We are a good team, but we didn’t have enough.”
Barkley scored only 17 points; Ron Anderson had 20 points for the 76ers, and Mike Gminski and Johnny Dawkins each scored 18.
The Bulls finalized that notion with an 11-4 run in the fourth quarter, building a 93-85 advantage into 104-89 blowout with 7:11 left.
What Mahorn was doing dribbling the ball behind his back at the top of the key during that crucial stretch is anyone’s guess, but Chicago didn’t miss the opportunity to make him regret it, with B.J. Armstrong grabbing the ball in mid-wrap-around and lofting a long, lead pass to Pippen for a dunk.
“We set a goal to try and win each quarter,” Mahorn said. “However, it seemed that it never worked when we got into the third and fourth period. The Bulls played great defense, and that was the key throughout this series.”
Indeed, the fourth quarter belonged to Bulls, as it did throughout the series. This time, it was a 28-18 advantage. The only hint of a Philadelphia defense when it mattered was against Jordan. He was averaging 17 points-per fourth quarter but this time was held below double figures in the last 12 minutes for the first time in the series.
By that time, it really didn’t make much of a difference.