June 04, 1992 By Melissa Isaacson.

Bulls Unleash Air Raid

It was one of those moments where your vision is just a bit blurred, the scene a sequence of slow-motion frame-by-frame bits that require a look at your neighbor to make sure that it is all really happening. In person at the Stadium or on television at home, it could not have mattered as the Bulls` 122-89 victory over Portland Wednesday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals numbed the senses. Count yourself truly blessed if you witnessed Michael Jordan`s magic moment in any form at all. His 35-point first half, including a record-setting six three-pointers, cast the series into a light no one could have expected and set the tone for a blowout few could have predicted. The Bulls didn`t need Jordan for much of the second half, and he finished with 39 points. The man was in a trance the likes of which sports fans have not seen in 30 years. And even then, one cannot imagine that Elgin Baylor, who had previously held the NBA Finals record with a mere 33 points in one half, was dropping jumpers from up around the ozone layer. Or throwing down follow-up slam dunks and alley-oop in-bounds passes with a lift and a grace that continues to defy imagination. “I was in a zone,“ said Jordan. “My threes felt like free throws. I didn`t know what I was doing, but they were going in.“ But the most encouraging thing for the Bulls was that beyond the bionic performance of Jordan was a team effort that rekindled memories of the defending champs at their very best. Scottie Pippen scored 24 points and just missed a triple double. All 12 Bulls scored as they went up 66-51 at the half, 104-68 after three.

It was, ironically, a lurching first two minutes with three fouls apiece for each team. But the Blazers quickly got untracked, unleashing their vaunted transition game that made New York and Cleveland before them look like the Bulgarian wrestling team and any team wearing hip boots, respectively. The Blazers were razor-sharp early, nailing their first seven shots while the Bulls struggled at just 2 for 10. Portland raced out to a 15-7 lead on a jumper by Cliff Robinson and kept its lead at eight on a tip-in by Mark Bryant at 6:19. The Bulls, or more accurately Jordan, then went to work. He popped in his first of three three-point attempts, then follow that with a turnaround jumper off the post-up, getting fouled by Clyde Drexler in the process. Jordan`s free throw pulled the Bulls to within two at 17-15 with 5:34 left in the quarter. But lest Bulls fans get too excited, the Blazers came right back with an 8-2 run in a 72-second flash that had the Bulls temporarily gasping for breath. Temporarily because Jordan fell into a major offensive groove, gunning in two straight three-pointers, then, just for fun, following with a normal jumper to tie the score at 25. Jordan score 10 straight points for the Bulls during his first hot streak and finished the quarter with 18 on 7 for 13 from the field. The Bulls took their first lead at the end of Jordan`s first run on a jumper by B.J. Armstrong, then extended it to 33-28. It still looked like a real game at that point. The Blazers were plagued by foul trouble in the first period, with four of their five starters-all but Jerome Kersey-picking up two fouls apiece. But they fortunate to trail by only three at the end of one. The teams went back and forth for the first part of the second. Bobby Hansen, making a rare playoff appearance, hit a jumper on a three-on-two break to keep the Bulls lead at five. But the Blazers battled back, tying the game at 41 on a three by Danny Ainge.

At the 5:04 mark of the second, Horace Grant retrieved a loose ball under the basket and powered it in for a 49-45 lead. Jordan then took the game, his game, into a different realm. He hit a quick turnaround jumper just 17 seconds after re-entering the game. At 4:49, he nailed a three, his fourth in six attempts. Next came a pull-up jumper, a drive around Drexler, another mid-range shot, then a brief break to watch Scott Williams tip in a miss by Grant to extend the Bulls lead to 58-49. In a 47-second span, Jordan lit up the crowd and entered the surreal with two long-range threes sandwiched around a tomahawk jam off a miss by Pippen. As the Blazers signaled for a timeout, the crowd was screaming itself into hyperventilation, and Jordan himself seemed overwhelmed. He fought back a smile and shrugged as if to signal that he couldn`t believe it either. The first-half magic ended with a record 35 points in 19 minutes, breaking Baylor`s mark set against Boston in 1962. Jordan finished the half with 14 for 21 from the field, 6 for 9 from three-point range, which tied the NBA Finals record for a game set by Michael Cooper and Bill Laimbeer. By the time he hit four, he had already surpassed the record for threes in a half, set by Cooper, Ainge and Isiah Thomas. When the Jordan fireworks had subsided, the Bulls had gone on a 12-2 run to take a 66-49 lead, and perhaps the scariest thing for the Blazers was that they were shooting very well. Sixty percent in the first half to 53 percent for the Bulls. But Portland committed 12 turnovers leading to 23 Bulls points in the half, and that told the story as much as anything.


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