The ‘Double Nickel’

March 28, 1995: Chicago Bulls (36-33) @ New York Knicks (44-23) / Box Score

You need to know: the Bulls enter Madison Square Garden on the back of MJ’s last-second heroics against the Atlanta Hawks:

The Knicks are coming off an 11-point man-handling (pun intended) from The Glove (26p-8r-4a) and his streaking Seattle Supersonics.

You don’t need to know: Bill Cartwright was on the Seattle roster!?!

The telecast (TNT) begins with highlights of Chicago’s triumphs over New York in Playoffs past. Coupled with Broadway-inspired music, the opening montage sets the scene for arguably the most anticipated regular-season game of Jordan’s storied career.

After the first ad break, we’re welcomed by Ernie Johnson in Atlanta – my all-time favourite studio host (apologies to Robert Quinlan Costas). Ernie forever won my affection, circa-1992, with this comment that I can still quote (almost) verbatim: “Michael Jackson…Michael Jordan! Well, I watched that movie last night and it completely bamboozled me now, didn’t it?”

In a bizarre pre-game NBA update (Lost and Found), Ernie informs us that the “missing” (see, stolen) Boston Celtics banner, featuring the retired numbers of Dennis Johnson (#3 RIP), Kevin McHale (#32), Larry Bird (#33) & Reggie Lewis (#35 RIP) has been found. Police indicate multiple teenagers climbed up into the rafters of Boston Garden to ‘borrow’ the banner. Ernie bids us farewell for now, as coverage heads to Madison Square Garden – the opening tip-off is just moments away.

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introduction of starting lineups (Bulls TV)…

12:00 remaining (first quarter)Craig Sager (TNT) tells us that John Starks is “eager for the challenge” of playing Jordan straight-up, with no double-teams. Good luck with that John!

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Marv Albert (MSG) – prior to tip-off…

11:44 – New York control the opening tip. Charles Oakley (via Derek Harper) feeds the ball into Patrick Ewing on the low block – Pat faces up from 15-feet and is immediately rejected by Will Perdue. An ominous start in what would ultimately be a big scoring game from Mr. Ewing.

11:36 – Bulls in transition – Toni Kukoc gets the ball to Jordan quicker than a Hue Hollins bad whistle. Off the catch, Jordan takes one dribble right, pulls up and connects on a 15-footer from the elbow – even with Starks right in his grill on the release, MJ hits on his first shot. The crowd reaction within MSG following Jordan’s first make, rivals that of a Bulls home game.

11:22 – Starks squares the ledger and hits his first shot – an open baseline look, after losing Jordan on a double screen.

11:06 – Jordan receives the ball near the top of the key, 19-feet from the basket. Following a ball-fake / jab-step combo, he connects on nothing but net (Bulls, 4-2) – again with Starks all over him. Alarmingly, if you’re a New York fan, Jordan already has that look.

10:10Scottie Pippen patiently backs down Anthony Bonner in the low-post, finishing with a gorgeous up-and-under move, off glass, that would make Kevin Duckworth (RIP) proud (Bulls, 6-2).

8:30 – Jordan posting-up on Starks down-low on the right block – spins baseline in a flash, taking it strong off glass, over Oakley and Bonner, amidst an array of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the MSG faithful (Bulls, 10-9).

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John Andariese (MSG) – Jordan vs. Starks…

8:04 – MJ posting Starks again, same spot as his previous move. This time, Starks doesn’t body him up as strong, allowing Jordan to spin baseline and hit on the mid-range jumper. Michael is now 4 of 5 from the field (Bulls, 12-11).

6:30 – Jordan, working at the top of the key…actually, here’s a better description:

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Marv Albert (MSG) – “he is on fire…” (Knicks, 17-15).

5:18 – Jordan rises up sharply, hitting another jumper, with Starks in his face – again. MJ now has 13 points, on 6/7 shooting.

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Bob Neal (TNT) – score update (Bulls, 20-19).

4:22 – leading a 2-on-1 fast break, Pippen earns 3 points the hard way, throwing down an unmitigated monster jam over Charles Smith. If it is possible for an all-time greatest ‘in-game dunk’ to be underrated, this must be it. Scottie had so much momentum at the rim, he didn’t even dribble the ball inside the 3-point arc on his attack to the hoop. Perhaps re-read that previous sentence. All we need now is to listen to the play unfold, through the eyes of the Bulls broadcasters:

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Tom Dore / Johnny ‘Red’ Kerr (Bulls TV) – Pippen over Smith (Bulls, 23-20).

[side note: whilst we’re at it, here’s a reminder of Charles Smith and his links to Bulls’ Playoffs past – complete with the memorable call from Marv Albert]:

4:10 – Jordan takes a seat on the bench – come on, he is human…isn’t he?

2:08 – MJ’s time on the pine led to a Knicks scoring burst – hence, he subs back into the game and continues his offensive clinic. The victim this time? Poor John Starks:

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Marv Albert (MSG) – Jordan…again (Knicks, 30-26).

0:55 – with Starks on the bench, Jordan’s new defender is Anthony Bonner. This leads to an isolation on the right sideline – MJ shakes and bakes, dribbles left, pulls-up and cans another long jumper.

0:38 – this is beyond ‘heat-check’ territory – with Bonner defending him again, Michael line-drives a cold-blooded 3-pointer. His tally for the quarter is 20 points on 9/11 shooting. Insane…after the first quarter, Knicks lead, 34-31.

12:00 remaining (second quarter)…

A sloppy opening to the 2nd quarter, as follows:

Jordan misses his first attempt of the quarter and the Knicks turn it over in transition. Luc Longley rims-out on back-to-back baseline jumpers, Steve Kerr misses from deep and the Knicks turn it over again.

[side note: as Greg Anthony enters the game for the Knicks. MJ and Anthony have a history. During a 1991-1992 regular season game, Jordan took exception to an Anthony cheap shot. Jordan fired the ball back at Anthony’s head as he tumbled to the floor; fuming, MJ had to be restrained by numerous Knicks players].

Play resumes, with another Bulls miss from the field, followed by Charles Smith rattling home a 19-footer from the right-wing. The Bulls turn the ball over, the Knicks miss on the ensuing possession and then Longley misses a finger-roll at the basket, off a pretty spin move around Ewing. The erratic play continues with a Greg Anthony entry pass to Ewing, bouncing through Patrick’s legs. Ewing heads to the bench, livid, shoulders slumped. His impact thus far has been negligible. Whilst a strong second half awaits, Ewing sits down, having made just 1/6 shots from the field.

8:32 – Jordan posts-up on Anthony, then spins baseline and hits the pretty layup off glass, under the basket.

7:37 – following an Anthony 3-pointer and a Hubert Davis (don’t start me on that foul from the 1994 Playoffs) tip-in off the fast break miss, the Bulls call for time (Knicks, 43-33).

7:18 – Charles Smith throws down a strong jam over Longley – Smith’s posturing after the made dunk makes me immediately think back to his nightmarish end to Game 5 of 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one:

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John Andariese (MSG) – Charles Smith…

MJ is now sitting on the bench, with 22 points on 10/14 from the field. In this second quarter, Chicago as a team is shooting a Dwayne Schintzius-like (RIP) 1/11 from the field. Following an easy dunk in transition by ‘Herb’ Williams, in my opinion, pioneer of the All-Condiment Team, Phil Jackson calls a 20-second timeout (Knicks, 47-33).

4:38 – Jordan returns to the floor scores on his first offensive possession – a beautiful one-hand floating runner in the lane, over the outstretched arms of Patrick Ewing.

3:28 – with the Bulls down by 9 points, Jordan, off the steal, goes into full-on attack mode (like he wasn’t already?) on the 2-on 2 fast break. A hapless John Starks is in wait, under the basket, attempting to stop MJ’s proliferation of points – the result?

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Bob Neal / Hubie Brown (TNT) – poetry in motion (Knicks, 48-42).

After arguably the most spectacular move since returning from retirement, MJ gives a knowing smile to fellow team mate and former St. John’s standout, Bill Wennington. The MSG crowd is reacting like it’s an NBA Finals game – an amazing atmosphere.

2:36 – with 4 seconds left on the Bulls shot clock, Jordan is working against Starks, back to the basket at 19-feet. MJ picks up his dribble, fakes left to the middle of the floor, but spins right and hits a ridiculous fade-away jumper, much to the incredulousness (is that even a word!?) of those in attendance (Knicks, 48-44).

1:28 – Jordan hits another jumper, this time from the free-throw line with Starks playing as close to MJ as humanly possible – Michael now has 30 points and we’re not even at half-time (Knicks, 50-46).

The first half comes to a close, with the Knicks leading. Jordan ends the half with a cool 35 points. Chicago was outscored 22-19 in that second quarter (Knicks, 56-50).

12:00 remaining (third quarter)…

[side note: whilst envisaging how many points Jordan will score in this game, his career high for points in a game is 69, versus Cleveland – interestingly, exactly 5 years prior to this game]:

11:25 – Jordan, isolated on Starks, backs him down and hits the turnaround jumper. MJ has seemingly not lost any of his shooting touch since the half-time break (Knicks, 58-52).

10:58 – with the Knicks shot clock running down, Ewing retreats towards the 3-point arc, receives the pass and hits a long 20-footer. A much needed confidence booster for Patrick, who had a slow first half.

9:00 – Jordan gets his first dunk of the night, off a pretty lead-pass from Pippen (Knicks, 66-59).

8:07 – Ewing is fouled, hits the running jump shot in the key and goes to the line. Whilst there, he passes a milestone – officially registering his 250,000th drop of sweat to hit the MSG floor (Knicks, 69-61).

4:53 – Jordan registers points number 40, 41 and 42, hitting a straight-ahead 3 pointer. MJ is now 2/3 from deep, keeping the Bulls in this game.

4:28 – the next play down the floor, Ewing connects on his patented baseline jumper from 15-feet, now working his way back into this game (Knicks, 75-73).

2:09 – Jordan scores two points from the free-throw line, after being fouled on his way to the hoop by The Incredible Hulk – hang on, no, Anthony Mason (Knicks, 78-77).

0:58 – an interesting final minute, with Jordan and team mate Pete Myers jawing at each other. MJ wanted Myers to reset the ball to the top of the key – instead, Pete throws up a brick from 4-feet. Next time down the floor, MJ dials-up a line-drive 3 and exhibits his interminable desire to win. Oh, yeah – the Bulls also take the lead and just quietly, MJ has 49 points (Bulls, 82-80).

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Marv Albert (MSG) – Jordan and Myers…

You know how I said MJ had that look in the first quarter? Well, it has just morphed into something altogether more scary. Marv, ever the comedian, drops this tasty line to boot:

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Marv Albert (MSG) – Fallout Boy…

Chicago outscored the Knicks 32-26 in the period – scores are tied at 82, entering the 4th.

12:00 remaining (fourth quarter)…

[side note: Jordan is on the bench to begin the 4th quarter, just 1-point shy of equaling his November 1986 record for most points scored by an opponent in (the current) Madison Square Garden]:

11:42 – Steve Kerr hits a long jumper to open the final quarter. Those points double as the first points scored from Chicago’s bench all game.

11:16 – Kerr hits again, this time from long range. Steve’s shooting prowess is what kept him an important cog on Chicago’s (and the Spurs’, in the future) roster (Bulls, 87-83).

7:55 – the Knicks call for time, on the back of a B.J. Armstrong 3-pointer – the seventh consecutive three the Bulls have hit. MJ is still on the bench, getting some valuable rest (Bulls, 97-90).

7:18 – Ewing attempts to stem the tide, hitting a nice turnaround floater from the baseline. He now has 25 points, the majority of those coming from the charity stripe.

6:12 – on consecutive trips down the floor, Ewing connects on a tough baseline jumper, then fights for position under the rim, makes the basket and fouls out Luc Longley in the process.

3:53 – following a frantic series of plays in the preceding minutes, Chicago call timeout (Bulls, 103-98).

3:44 – isolated against Starks, Jordan pulls-up from 16-feet, connects on yet another jumper, simultaneously setting a new opponent scoring mark:

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Tom Dore / Johnny Kerr (Bulls TV) – Jordan’s new record (Bulls, 105-98).

Ewing cuts the Bulls lead to 5 points, on another tough baseline jumper – he’s really exerting his influence in this second half.

2:23 – Jordan, deviating away from the screen and roll, drives to the middle of the floor, elevates and knocks down another jumper in Starks’ face – this time, from 18-feet. As he back-peddles down the floor, Jordan is shaking his head and jawing with Starks, giving one of those you can’t guard me looks – wow (Bulls, 107-102).

1:20 – Jordan rises for a jumper, but is rejected, leading to a fast break dunk by John Starks. The game is now tied at 107, with just over a minute and change remaining:

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Bob Neal / Hubie Brown (TNT) – Starks’ dunk…

1:02 – Jordan drives baseline, goes under the hoop and finds an open Pippen, who casually kisses the ball of glass from 20-feet. Timeout New York – this also allows Pippen to have some more ice water injected into his veins (Bulls 109-107).

Pippen is perhaps the best exponent of the mid-range bank-shot I’ve ever seen. Jordan’s offensive brilliance in this game has overshadowed Pip’s near triple-double numbers.

0:32 – after Ewing ties the score with two free-throws, the Bulls bring the ball into the front-court. Jordan gets the ball on a clear-out, guarded by Starks. Michael puts the moves on Starks – drives middle, stutter step, one dribble, fake…jumper – basket:

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Tom Dore / Johnny Kerr (Bulls TV) – MJ has 55 (Bulls, 111-109).

Following a timeout, New York inbound the ball – attempting to stifle John Starks on a drive to the hoop, Will Perdue becomes the third Bulls player to foul out of the game, joining Luc Longley and Toni Kukoc. Perdue is replaced in the lineup by former New York High School All-American, Bill Wennington. Starks sinks both free throws – we’re tied at 111-111. Timeout Chicago.

0:14.6 – Pippen passes the ball into Jordan – MJ is guarded by Starks. Jordan gets the ball across half-court, hesitates a moment, then puts on the afterburners and completely wrong-foots Starks, who loses his balance, momentarily falling to the floor. Starks recovers as best possible and Jordan spins back towards the middle of the key. Ewing releases from his man, to double-team MJ, who dishes the ball under the hoop to a wide-open Bill Wennington for the slam. Jordan’s best move of the night becomes the biggest surprise. Wennington returns to the Bulls bench, greeted by a series of high-fives and smiles all around.

Here’s how the definitive, game-winning play sounded (Bulls, 113-111):

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Tom Dore / Johnny Kerr (Bulls TV)…

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Marv Albert / John Andariese (MSG)…

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Bob Neal / Hubie Brown (TNT)…

0:03.1 – the Knicks having used their final timeout, prepare to inbound the ball at half-court, hoping to force OT at worst, or go for a miraculous win, at best. The Bulls employ the use of their remaining ‘delay-of-game’, hoping to catch a glimpse of New York’s final play, but nothing eventuates. On the subsequent inbound scramble, Starks controls, then loses the handle of the ball, slipping to the floor again. The ball dribbles into the back-court, for an over and back violation; Chicago ball, less than a second remaining.

0:00.8 – the Bulls inbound the ball to Jordan, who catches at about 40-feet from the basket. He controls possession, buzzer sounds, game over. A stunning game comes to an unusual end.

Here’s the post-game recap with interviews from key players:

I hope you enjoyed reading, interacting and listening to this first retro recap, as much as I enjoyed creating it. If you did indeed enjoy this, please comment or share this with your social media accounts. It would be most appreciated.

Please visit the ‘PODCAST’ tab at top of this page – or, scroll down, below – to listen to my conversation with Bill Wennington!

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Adam Ryan

Interviews with NBA-related personalities at In all Airness - Jordan-era NBA podcast
Podcaster and basketball-obsessive, Adam Ryan - authority on Michael Jordan | NBA history; has spent 25 years absorbing the NBA.

3 thoughts on “The ‘Double Nickel’

  1. Pingback: AIR Podcast 001 - Bill Wennington • In all Airness

  2. Great post Ad, what better way to re-live an awesome Bulls victory. Can’t wait for the podcasts to start dropping!

    • Thanks for the comment mate – much appreciated. I’d like to build up a nice community of diehard Jordan-era fans on here – but, really – any basketball fans are welcome! I am very excited for the first podcast too…

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