My weekly Bulls history update returns this week with a look at some memorable games between December 15th and December 21st.
December 21, 1966: Bulls point guard Guy Rodgers dished out 24 assists in a 110-107 victory over the New York Knicks, which remains the most assists ever recorded by a Bulls player in a single game. Rodgers also holds the single season assist record for the Bulls at 908 in the 1966-67 season, which I wrote about this summer.
December 16, 1967 : Wilt Chamberlain hit 30 of 40 shots and 8 of 22 free throws for a total of 68 points in the 76er’s 143-123 victory over the Bulls, which set the 76ers record for points in a game by a single player. Chamberlain’s 68 was not only the most points scored by a Bulls opponent in franchise history, it was and remains the most points ever scored by an opponent in an NBA game in Chicago. Who held the record broken by Chamberlain? None other than Wilt himself, who scored 61 points against the Chicago Zephyrs in 1962.
December 17, 1987: “I was handed my breakfast, lunch and dinner all in one night” said Craig Ehlo after Michael Jordan scored 52 points (30 in the 2nd half) in the Bulls 111-100 win over the Cavaliers. It was Jordan’s season high up to that point, but as Bob Sakamoto pointed out, it only ranked 8th on his list of personal bests at the time.
December 20, 1988: This was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s final game in Chicago Stadium but by the end all eyes were on the dual between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Jordan finished with 42 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals, while Magic had 31 points, 12 assists, and 4 rebounds.
December 20 1989: Michael Jordan scored 52 points, including 20 in the 4th quarter against the Orlando Magic. The Bulls were down late but charged back to go up by 1 point on a Jordan jumper with 7 seconds left. However, what the video below left out was Otis Smith’s layup that defeated the Bulls 110-109 and sent them home complaining about the referees.
December 15, 1990: The Bulls defense held the Cavaliers to only 5 first quarter points, which set a team record for fewest points allowed in a quarter. “Wasn’t that something?” was the way Phil Jackson summed up the Bulls 36-5 lead after the 1st period of a game that became a 116-98 blowout. The Bulls have held an opponent to 5 points two other times in franchise history: the New York Knicks in 1999 and the Atlanta Hawks in 2013.
December 17, 1996: Early on it appeared that the Lakers were going to run the Bulls out of the United Center. The Lakers led by 22 in the first half, 18 going into the 4th quarter, and 13 with less than 5 minutes to go. However, the Bulls exploded and turned this disaster into an instant classic when they forced overtime and beat the Lakers 129-123. Toni Kukoc (18 in the 4th quarter), Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen all scored over 30 points, Dennis Rodman (who got into a scuffle with Shaq) added 18 rebounds, and Randy Brown destroyed Los Angeles with a dunk in overtime.
(This video incorrectly labels this game 1997)
December 15, 1997: The game against the Suns, a 111-104 victory for Chicago, was the Bulls’ 500th consecutive sellout, at that time the longest streak in the league. The streak began on November 20, 1987 and ended at 610 games on November 7, 2000.
December 17, 1997: On December 17, 1996 rookie Kobe Bryant scored 5 points in the 129-123 overtime loss to the Bulls. A year later all eyes were on the dual between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, and they did not disappoint. Jordan scored 36 points and Bryant followed close behind with 33 as the Bulls beat the Lakers 104-83. Both Jordan’s and Bryant’s thoughts on the 1997 matchup are detailed in Roland Lazenby’s Blood on the Horns. The victory was also Phil Jackson’s 500th win, a milestone he reached faster than any coach in NBA history, which left most questioning the wisdom behind what was considered at the time his eminent departure from the Bulls at the end of the season.
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