The Chicago Bulls made a furious comeback with Michael Jordan on the bench early in the fourth quarter Sunday night, then jumped on his back to win their second consecutive NBA championship.
Jordan scored 12 of his 33 points in the last 6:01 and the Bulls held the Portland Trail Blazers to 14 points in the final period of a 97-93 victory that gave Chicago a 4-2 edge in the NBA finals.
Trailing by 17 points in the third quarter and by 79-64 after three quarters, the Bulls rallied with Scottie Pippen the only starter on the court. Chicago started the quarter by scoring 14 of the first 16 points, closing to within 81-78 before Jordan returned.
Jordan’s first basket of the quarter, with 6:01 left, pulled Chicago to within 83-82 before Pippen’s three-pointer tied it, 85-85, 40 seconds later.
After Jordan tied it again, 87-87, he stole the ball from Buck Williams and dunked for Chicago’s first lead since early in the game.
After a layup by Portland’s Clyde Drexler, Pippen, who scored 26 points, gave the Bulls the lead for good with a jumper with 2:22 left. Jordan followed with another basket at the 1:39 mark for a 93-89 lead.
Two free throws by Drexler were answered by Jordan’s layup, making it 95-91 with 35 seconds left. After two free throws by Jerome Kersey, who matched Drexler with 24 points for the Trail Blazers, Jordan dribbled the clock down to 11.8 seconds before his two free throws concluded the scoring.
Kersey’s missed three-point shot with 4.7 seconds left was rebounded by John Paxson, setting off jubilant cheering and singing by the Bulls and the delirious sellout crowd.
Fifteen minutes after the game ended, most of the crowd was still in Chicago Stadium, singing songs that were blaring over the public address system.
Chicago is the NBA’s third repeat champion in six seasons, but unlike last season, when the Bulls lost only two postseason games on the way to their first NBA title, they struggled in the 1992 playoffs.
They lost seven times and had 2-2 ties in each of their last three series against New York, Cleveland and Portland. But they won Game 5 each time, beating the Knicks in seven games and the Cavaliers and Blazers in six each.
Jordan, named most valuable player of the finals, is the second player to be voted MVP of both the regular season and finals, and the first to win both awards in consecutive years. Larry Bird was MVP for the Boston Celtics in 1984 and 1986.
Jordan’s 35.8 scoring average is the highest ever for a winning player in the finals, surpassing his 31.2 mark of a year ago. The finals scoring record of 40.8 by Rick Barry for the San Francisco Warriors in 1967 was in a losing effort.
Portland overcame another poor shooting start to take a 15-point lead in the second quarter, then nearly folded when Jordan scored 10 points in less than three minutes, helping the Bulls pull within six points at halftime.
But the Blazers came back strong in the third quarter, building the lead to 60-46 with an 8-0 run keyed by Terry Porter’s driving jumper and breakaway layup.
Drexler, playing with four fouls, extended the margin to 70-54 with a layup, made it 73-58 with a three-point play and then blocked a layup by Jordan, leading to Porter’s two free throws and a 75-58 advantage with 2:12 left.
Porter finished with 22 points, his best effort of the series after he had an NBA playoff record 18 three-pointers in the Western Conference finals against Utah.
Kersey had 12 points and four of the Blazers’ seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter as they jumped to a 25-19 lead.
Portland missed its first six shots and 10 of its first 12, but six offensive rebounds in under six minutes keyed a 12-2 run that gave the Blazers a 12-6 edge.
A dunk by Scott Williams tied the score, 17-17, but the Blazers hit their last four shots of the quarter on three layups by Kersey and one by Cliff Robinson.
Drexler, scoreless in the first period, hit a three-pointer to start the second quarter, giving the Blazers a nine-point advantage.
After Chicago closed to 32-28, Drexler had a dunk, layup and two free throws during an 11-0 run that gave the Blazers their largest lead of the first half, 43-28, with 4:14 left.
Jordan, limited to two baskets to that point in the game, then scored 10 points, including two three-pointers, in a span of 2:29, leading a 12-3 spurt that cut Portland’s lead to 46-40. Pippen’s two free throws after time expired made it 50-44 at halftime.
The Bulls won all the odd-numbered games to always stay a step ahead of the Blazers.
In the opener, Jordan scored a finals-record 35 points in the first half and finished with 39 in a 122-89 rout. Jordan set another finals record with six three-pointers in the first half as Chicago opened a 66-51 lead, then ended any hope of a Blazers’ comeback by outscoring them, 38-17, in the third period.
The Bulls appeared to be in control of the second game, owning a 92-82 lead with 4:36 left when Drexler fouled out. But a personal foul and technical foul on Jordan helped ignite a Portland comeback.