CHICAGO -- A little fatherly advice sent Michael Jordan back to the Chicago Bulls' last Game 7. It was two years ago at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., in the Eastern Conference final. The Detroit Pistons chilled Chicago's NBA Finals dreams that day.
Jordan, who will be named NBA Most Valuable Player today, wouldn't permit an encore yesterday in Game 7 of the Eastern semifinal against the New York Knicks. Jordan starred while many of his teammates stumbled. His 42 points lifted Chicago to a 110-81 victory.
The Bulls will play the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern final tomorrow in Chicago. The Cavaliers eliminated Boston yesterday in seven games.
Jordan said he decided to begin the game scoring after a pre-game talk with his father, James. The elder Jordan reminded his son of the Pistons series two years ago and said Michael could set the best example for his teammates by looking to score rather than pass.
Jordan scored 18 of the Bulls' 30 first-quarter points.
"After watching Michael play the first six minutes, I knew that we should have played this game a day earlier," said Knicks coach Pat Riley. "He did what great players do for their teams: lead at the critical times."
Pippen has been hampered by a sore ankle and back, but many believed his biggest ailment was a fear to attract contact from the physical Knicks. Several times, he passed up drives when he spotted Charles Oakley or Anthony Mason waiting under the basket with forearms ready.
Pippen scored 17 points, but most came in the fourth quarter with the game decided.
But Jordan diminished the pressure on Pippen, running the offense practically single-handedly for more than half the game. Jordan scored23 of Chicago's first 39 points before coach Phil Jackson rested him for two minutes. Jordan scored 29 of the Bulls' 56 halftime points.
But the Bulls aren't as good when Jordan scores half their points. That's why they led the Knicks by only five at halftime and why New York got within 60-57 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Had the Knicks shot better in the third quarter, they could have taken the Bulls. But Mark Jackson was 0-for-4 in the quarter after a great first half in which he had 10 points and six assists.