Leading into episode 9 of The Last Dance, Reggie Miller claims he thought the 1997-1998 Pacers were going to send Jordan into retirement because they were the better team. Maybe there was something on tape during the series that could show us the series outcome didn't? I took a look at ...
Now it's time to see how the Bulls respond to finishing a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
ONLY 3 teams had ever taken Michael Jordan's Bulls to a Game 7. The Pistons '90- L, Knicks '92- W, and now the Pacers '98- W.
Looking at rosters, the Pacers have Reggie Miller, Rick Smits, and a deeper bench than the bulls. But, the Bulls were the more experienced team, and much better at creating favorable match-ups. Oh, and the Bulls had Michael fucking Jordan. MJ was at the end of his career, but even '98 Jordan was still putting together one of his greatest seasons.
The Pacers couldn't have gotten off to a better start offensively going 8/8 from the field. All of it was able to get going through the Pacers defense. I gave Larry Bird shit for refusing to double team, but he makes up for it by demanding Rick "The Dunkin Dutchman" Smits and Dale "I tape my penis to my leg" Davis protect the paint at all costs.
Jordan had been bullying Miller 1 v 1 all series. MJ demands the ball so he can do it again. This game the Pacers treat Jordan like a star wide receiver in the NFL. Let Miller cover man to man like a cornerback while Davis and Smits play high safety for when Jordan beats Miller.
The only problem with that strategy is when MJ gets by you can't foul him. Which doesn't go well for the Pacers ...
The Pacers defense in this game is great, but Indiana's rebounding is ... god awful. Just fucking horrendous. Which is because of fouls, and the Bulls are an incredible rebounding team.
Did I actually think I'd discover the Pacers were better than the Bulls? I wanted to, but no. Watching the old games did give me a better idea where the Pacers stood in terms of the Bulls toughest playoff foe.
Toughest Playoff Opponents Jordan / Pippen Era
Lakers - Magic Johnson
Pistons - Isiah Thomson
Pacers - Reggie Miller
Obviously Pippen was being a massive pussy letting ego get in the way when he refused to go back into the 94 playoff game because Kukoč got to take the last shot. Watching this series showed me that Toni Kukoc could absolutely stroke it consistently. HOW could you not want Kukoc taking the game winning shot?
He can knock it down from anywhere on the floor. Guarded, unguarded - doesn't matter.