Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classics"

Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classics"
November 9, 2011, 6:37 pm
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Five things to watch in tonight's Comcast SportsNet's "Bulls Classics" broadcast of the Bulls' 117-116 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 16, 1989, in which Michael Jordan scored 50 points, including the game-winning shot:

1) In something that was a staple for Jordan throughout his career, perhaps the most impressive aspect of his 50-point outing wasn't the gaudy numbers, but the manner in which he accumulated the high point total. He shot 16-for-26 from the floor, including splitting a pair of three-point attempts, and nailed 17 of his 18 shots from the charity stripe. In addition, he snared eight rebounds, dished out five assists and swiped three steals on the evening in Chicago Stadium. For good measure, he knocked down his final attempt, a mid-range jumper, with one second remaining in the contest to give the Bulls the one-point victory.

2) In the 1988-89 season, the Bulls were still coming into their own, but were making strides toward being the franchise that would dominate much of the next decade of NBA basketball. It was center Bill Cartwright's first season in Chicago after being traded from the New York Knicks for power forward Charles Oakley. Cartwright, who finished with 11 points and eight boards that night, wasn't a star, but he was a consistent, legitimate pivot presence and paved the way for Horace Grant to join fellow second-year forward Scottie Pippen in the Bulls starting lineup. As for Grant and Pippen, they were still somewhat raw, developing young players, but their near-identical stat lines -- Grant recorded 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot, while Pippen went for 17 points, five apiece of rebounds and assists, to go along with two blocks and four steals -- offered a glimpse of the well-rounded veterans they'd later become. The Bulls went on to finish the regular season with a 47-35 mark and advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they'd suffer a painful -- literally and figuratively -- defeat to the hated Detroit Pistons after knocking off the Knicks and Central Division rival Cleveland in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

3) Milwaukee was no slouch in those days, as the Bucks actually finished with a better regular-season record than neighboring Chicago before losing in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jack Sikma and Terry Cummings were a formidable big-man tandem and the wing trio of star Sidney Moncrief, sixth man Ricky Pierce, a dangerous scorer and Paul Pressey -- credited by many as the game's first "point forward," as he was deployed by former coach Don Nelson -- was also quite strong, although Pierce and Moncrief both missed that February 1989 game on Madison Street.

4) Not only is Milwaukee close in proximity to Chicago, but that season's edition of the Bucks featured some local flavor. The aforementioned Cummings, reserve Tony Brown and then-aging backup point guard Rickey Green all hail from the Windy City, while Sikma is from nearby Kankakee, Ill.

Fun fact: Milwaukee reserve Tito Horford is the father of current NBA All-Star Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks.

5) An inordinate number of players from this game went on to coaching careers. Cartwright is an assistant with the Phoenix Suns and Bulls starting point guard Sam Vincent is currently a head coach in the D-League, although he previously was the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Milwaukee, however, takes the cake. Starting point guard Jay Humphries and backup big man Paul Mokeski also coached in the D-League, Pressey is a Cavaliers assistant, Moncrief is back with the Bucks as an assistant, Sikma is on the Minnesota Timberwolves' new staff and Brown was most recently a Clippers assistant under Dunleavy. Dunleavy actually coached against the Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals, when he was at the helm of the Lakers. Blue-collar forward Larry Krystowiak (24 points, game-high 18 rebounds) was actually the Bucks head coach for a short stint, sandwiched between college head-coaching jobs at his alma mater, the University of Montana, and his current position at the University of Utah.