Opening night for the Chicago Bulls to begin the 1990/1991 season did not start off very well, at all. Scottie Pippen missed several open shots. A major weakness for the Bulls was exploited as their centers failed to make an impact for most of the game against the Sixers. They veered away from what was working with Horace Grant and took many poor quality shots. Whenever they’d get some momentum, they had a mental lapse on defense and the Sixers took full advantage. The amount of times the Sixers converted a three point play was ludicrous and something I had never seen to such an extreme extent.
Michael Jordan performed at a high level and almost brought the Bulls back from a twenty point deficit, but the team should have never gotten to that point. Charles Barkley and the Sixers got some redemption and now the next time they meet the Bulls will be looking to get their own redemption. However, that’s further along in the season.
The Bulls next game came on November 3rd, 1990 against the Washington Bullets. As noted in the introduction for this series, the Bullets are not a good team. They got destroyed by the Miami Heat on November 2nd losing the game 119-95. The Bullets, similar to the Bulls, had a poor shooting night.
Despite being a poor team, the Bullets do have some talent with the likes of Bernard King and Harvey Grant. However, there’s not much help for them and coming in against the Jordan led Bulls is a tough task, even with the poor play the Bulls showcased against the Sixers.
November 3rd, 1990 at Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland.
Harvey Grant starts the game by draining a jump shot over his brother Horace in a battle between twin brothers. Horace tried to answer on the Bulls possession and missed. Jordan starts off missing two straight does, as does Horace. Bernard King is matched up with Scottie Pippen and shows a good burst in the paint early on in the game. Pippen’s shot continues to look off as he misses an early shot in the corner. John Paxson makes the first shot for the Bulls as they are down early 4-2.
The Bulls are using the same game plan they used against the Sixers by giving Horace the ball early and often. Horace isn’t draining shots, but is getting to the line against his brother Harvey. Horace makes two shots at the line to tie the game. The Bulls are also using a trap defense early as that proved to be effective against the Sixers, too. They manage a turnover, but the Bulls play too fast and lose the ball.
Bernard King is showing to be an early problem for the Bulls as he drives into the paint for another easy shot. Paxson showed some touch tonight hitting two early shots. Pippen makes an embarrassing attempt at a hook shot that nearly ended up in the front row with how poorly he shot it. Pippen needs to stop shooting the ball until he figures it out. Charles Jones thinks the same as I do. Jones continues to humble Pippen with a block shot. This hasn’t been a fun start to the year for Pippen. Pippen makes a rare shot, but only because he’s cherry picking as the play sped up a bit. So, I’m not even sure I’d count that.
It’s been a rough start to the year for Scottie.
Horace gets his brother Harvey in early foul trouble less than four minutes into the game. The Bulls lead the game 9-6. Larry Robinson drains his first shot and the Bulls toss the ball out of bounds. Pervis Ellison is in the game for Harvey, who is a taller forward. Bill Cartwright works on Ellison and makes a shot after some nice footwork. It’s been about ten-seconds and Ellison has two fouls already. Ellison must not have liked being traded to the Bullets.
Pippen leads the transition offense, but is called for a charge. Pippen not being able to get going on offense is funny at this point. Horace blocks the ball into Ellison’s face. This is now turning into a competition between Pippen and Ellison for who is going to have a more miserable game. Darrell Walker makes a shot and is so excited he almost falls to the floor. Paxson makes another shot and the Bulls lead 14-10. Pippen is out of the game due to foul trouble. Ellison has three fouls in less than three minutes of playing time. With Harvey and Ellison having foul trouble, the Bullets turn to Mark Avarie.
After a missed free throw by Cartwright, King makes a layup. Dennis Hopson makes a hard shot to bring the lead to five, 17-12. BJ Armstrong has entered the game for the Bulls. It appears that everyone that guards Horace Grant picks up a quick foul. Mark Avarie picks up his first on the second time down the court. Who knew that Horace was an offensive wizard? Horace has made four out of five shots from the line. Bulls get a turnover with the full court press.
Armstrong makes a nice pass to Stacy King to bring the lead to eight, 21-13. Jordan misses his third shot in the corner. Jordan off to another slow start from the field, but has some better support offensively tonight. Avarie makes two shots from the line and the Bulls turn the ball over quickly. Darrell Walker with a quick layup to cut the lead to four, 21-17.
BJ Armstrong making some nice passes.
Walker missed a layup as he ran too fast and ended up in an awkward position. A technical foul is called on Darrell Walker from a hard hit on BJ Armstrong’s shot attempt. Jordan misses the free throw and remains scoreless. Jordan makes one of the three free throws. Armstrong gets a quick steal and hits a jump shot to bring the lead to seven, 24-17. It’s noted that Cliff Levingston hurt his wrist last night and wasn’t able to shoot the ball with his right hand.
Jordan gets his first shot cleaning up a miss from King in the paint. King drives into the paint and is fouled leading to a three point try and converts. King has eleven points already. Armstrong makes a nice pass to Horace for an impressive layup. Walker is blocked by Horace, but is fouled. Play gets a little sloppy as the first quarter nears an end. King gets the ball and is fouled on a layup attempt by King. The Bulls lead by four at the end of the first quarter, 28-24.
A better performance in the first quarter for the Bulls compared to the first game against the Sixers. Bullets are getting some good looks in the paint, which is likely going to be a trend. Pippen was a non-factor for most of the quarter. BJ Armstrong brought some life and energy to the court once entering the game. King is a problem for the Bulls and it doesn’t help that Pippen wasn’t on the court for a good portion of the quarter. King’s ability to get momentum in the paint is going to be troublesome. If Harvey Grant can get his fouls under control, the Bullets are going to make this a difficult game for the Bulls.
Bernard King exits the second quarter early for a breather and has twelve points. Armstrong gets the scoring started with two free throws. AJ English makes a nice move to finish a layup. King turns the ball over and the Bullets showcase some great passing leading to a layup for Avarie. English slams the ball easily with no Bull insight on some poor defense. The game is tied at 30-30.
Jordan dishes the ball to Will Perdue in the paint for a short range bucket. Horace makes a strong move on Avarie and is fouled on the miss shot. I’m really liking the focus that Horace is getting and he’s working really well in that role. Horace makes both free throws and has nine points. Jordan drains a mid range shot, which was a beauty. Greg Foster makes his first shot. Armstrong shows no fear in the paint, but misses a shot. On the other end, Harvey brings the crowd to their feet with a one handed dunk. Jordan is fouled on the other end as the offensive pace has picked up a bit. Jordan makes both shots and has seven points.
Foster is looking to make a mark on the game getting some attention on the offensive side. Foster is aggressive in the paint and is getting to the line, but misses both shots. Scott Williams misses two free throws that looked absolutely horrible. Bullets may look into “hack a Scott” if they need to. Jordan gets that taste out of my mouth with spectacular layup. The Bulls lead 43-34 after Jordan makes a jumper after a missed free throw.
Bernard King is back in the game looking to keep the game within reach. Harvey Grant finishes in the paint after a pass from King. Greg Hodges drains a mid range shot. King quickly comes back down with a layup and is fouled by Horace and finishes the three point play. The Bulls lead by six, 45-39.
Jordan finishes a baseline dunk, much to the delight of the fans. Horace picks up his third foul on the other end and takes a seat. King has sixteen points after a made free throw. Dennis Hopson commits his third foul and John Paxson returns to the floor. Bill Cartwright made a good move and was so surprised that he was wide open that he froze and got a three second violation. I can’t make that up.
Jordan is so smooth.
Cartwright’s not so smooth.
Harvey Grant finishes a dunk following a pass by King. Scott Williams makes his first career shot with a layup in the paint. Cartwright is ironically able to make a contested shot. King continues to run into the paint and gets to the line. King has had twelve shots at the free throw line and has eighteen points. Bullets cut the lead to seven, 53-46. Cartwright gets about three tries to make a close range shot and misses every single one. Bullets have multiple attempts on the other end, but Scott Williams holds his own to prevent an easy score.
Paxson misses a mid range shot and Williams gets the offensive rebound. Williams had a moment of being wide open, but the Bullets closed the gap quickly and fouled. Williams actually makes a free throw after two horrible attempts earlier. Williams misses the second, but Jordan soars through the middle to dunk the ball! That’s the second straight game he’s done that. King responds with a mid range jumper in Jordan’s face. Craig Hodge drains a three point shot at the buzzer to give the Bulls a nine point lead at half, 60-51
Despite Scottie Pippen playing like garbage on the offensive side, the Bulls had a much better first half. Jordan and Grant have been strong on offense to combat Bernard King and Harvey Grant. I’d like to see BJ Armstrong on the court more as his energy and fearless play makes the Bulls a better team on the court. Paxson may be the starter, but he’s not really playing starter minutes. Cartwright is a cringe inducing center. For every one good play by Cartwright, there’s five head scratching or frustrating plays. Cartwright was an effective center in the past, but time is catching up to him quickly this year.
Bernard King had a strong first half, but most of his damage came from the free throw line. King is constantly driving to the basket and in the second half that could lead to extended bench minutes for the Bulls forwards and centers. The battle between twin brothers Harvey and Horace hasn’t been a major story to the game, but they are both playing well. The game has been fairly equal with the Bulls shooting 47% from the field while the Bullets are at 44%. The Bulls have the rebound advantage, 27-21 and both teams have eight turnovers.
Jordan ended the first half with sixteen points. Horace has nine. Bernard King leads the game with twenty points with most of those coming from the free throw line. Harvey Grant has eight points.
The second half starts off with a three second violation negating a mid range shot by Cartwright. Charles Jones has driven down the middle and finishes with a dunk. Scottie Pippen with another awful shot attempt. Pippen played nine minutes in the first half and I wouldn’t expect much time if this continues. English with a short range shot. Pippen runs down the court with a tough layup to make me eat my words.
Pippen blocks King in the paint as the Bulls lead by seven. Horace takes a poor fadeaway, but makes up for it on the defensive side to prevent a fast break score. King is blocked again in the paint and Pippen drains a shot despite being fouled. Pippen is finally getting some momentum on the offensive side. Pippen misses the free throw and the Bullets hilariously block out Jordan at the three point line to prevent a dunk. Cartwright hits a shot from the free throw stripe and the Bulls lead by eleven, 66-55. Cartwright might just need to avoid playing in the paint.
English drains a three and steals the ball down the court. Harvey gets an offensive rebound and scores on Horace to cut the lead to seven. Pippen leads a fast break and issues a poor pass to Horace, which marks three straight turnovers. Cartwright takes a seat after his third foul. King makes a good outlet pass to Walker for an easy layup and the Bullets have scored seven straight points. King steals the ball from Pippen and makes a layup to cut the lead to two, 66-64.
Four straight turnovers by the Bulls as Horace is called for an offensive foul and takes a seat. The momentum has shifted to the Bullets and has done so quickly. Pippen drives towards the basket and is fouled on a pass attempt to King. The Bulls are going back to a full court pressure defense and they get a turnover. Pippen rushes down the court and instead of passing to an open Jordan is instead called for a charge. That was a selfish play when Pippen has no right to take that play considering his subpar play thus far.
Harvey stops Hopson on a fast break attempt, which was a smart play unless the Bulls passed to Pippen then who knows what would have happened. Jordan drains a mid range shot to give the Bulls a five point lead. Pippen is called for a foul and now has five fouls. Pippen takes a seat with Will Perdue coming in. King gets contact in the paint and makes a bank shot leading to a three point play attempt. King misses the shot, but Stacy King gets a lane violation. Bernard misses it again anyway.
Perdue with a great backdoor pass to Jordan, but Jordan is blocked on the drive to the basket. Jordan got hacked, but the foul isn’t called. I’m not sure what else could have happened for a more obvious foul, but I digress. Bullets turnover the ball on an offensive foul by Walker. Jordan nails a turnaround bucket. Walker defends Jordan really well on the next possession. Stacy King is called for a foul and is showing some frustration. The Bulls lead by four, 72-68.
Hodges misses a three point shot and the Bullets quickly head down the court leading to a foul by Perdue. Avarie makes both shots to cut the lead to two. Perdue grabs an offensive rebound, but is fouled on the finish. Perdue makes both shots to bring the lead back to four. Armstrong runs down the court and is blatantly fouled by Avarie and the referees call a jump ball. That is perhaps the worst call I’ve ever seen in my life. That was closer to a flagrant foul than a jump ball. An almost identical play occurs with Bernard King, but a foul is called. So, in the game the players can mug Jordan and twirl each other around and not get called for a foul.
One of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. “Jump ball”
Hodges steals the ball on a fast break and drains a long range jumper to bring the lead back to four, 77-73. Bernard gets fouled by Perdue and will have shot seventeen foul shots. Bernard makes both shots and has twenty six points and the Bulls lead by only two points. AJ English fouls BJ Armstrong hard and thankfully the referees call it. Armstrong makes both shots. The Bulls continue with a full court defense and Walker almost turns the ball over. The Bulls should do the full court defense more often as it always stops the momentum of their opponents.
Scott Williams is called for an offensive foul and Charles Jones goes to the line to potentially tie the game. Jones makes one of two and the Bulls try for a quick possession. Williams misses a few attempts in the paint and the Bullets hold for the last shot. Avarie gets an offensive rebound, but Craig Hodges nails a long range three to give the Bulls an 81-79 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
That was a rough quarter for the Bulls. They played very sloppily to start the quarter, and didn’t have Horace or Pippen on the court for a good portion of the quarter. Hodges continued to be a force from behind the three point line and bailed them out to have a lead entering the fourth. BJ Armstrong needs to start and needs to do so right now. His energy is so much greater than most of the players on the court and he pushes the ball really well up the court. The referees didn’t help matters with some really bad officiating. I wonder if the Bulls could have Bill Cartwright become the first ever center to never play in the paint. That’s the best approach for him at this point.
The Bulls start the fourth with a full court pressure approach and the Bullets aren’t able to get a good possession. Hodges misses a three and Robinson makes a layup down the court. The Bulls are struggling to have a good possession as they have had quick fouls to start the quarter. Horace and Pippena are both on the bench with five fouls. Bernard makes Jordan look foolish with a spin move and finishes a layup. Bulls are called for another offensive foul on BJ Armstrong, which was questionable. Robinson makes a shot and the Bullets are up four, 85-81. Jordan is fouled by Robinson on a turnaround jumper. Jordan has twenty-two points after making two free throws.
Bernard dives on the floor to get an offensive rebound as the Bulls look flat footed. King drains a jumper. Jordan responds with a quick jumper of his own. Bernard is wide open and makes another mid range shot. Jordan misses a tough shot on the baseline and Robinson makes a wide open shot on the baseline. Bullets are up by six, 91-85. That was some truly awful defense by the Bulls. They lacked effort and have allowed the Bullets to pull ahead.
Hodges makes a three point shot to give the Bulls some momentum. Bernard makes another shot and has thirty four points. If this was NBA Jam, Bernard would be on fire and unstoppable. I never won at NBA Jam, in case anyone is wondering. Pervis Ellison has five fouls and has done nothing for the Bullets. Jordan is fouled by Robinson on the baseline. Ellison blocks Stacy King, but Jordan makes the basket. Bullets turn the ball over on their next possession.
Jordan misses a mid range shot and naturally Bernard King drains another shot. Hodges tosses an ally loop for Jordan and Jordan dunks it home. Armstrong dishes the ball to Stacy, who is fouled and the referee calls a flagrant foul, which gives the Bulls two shots and possession. Stacy makes both free throws. Horace and Harvey have returned to the game. Jordan misses a shot, but hustles to the baseline and makes a great pass to Horace, but Horace is fouled by Ellison. Ellison has fouled out and did virtually nothing in his debut.
Horace makes one free throw and ties the game. Bernard King continues to not miss and drains another jump shot. Stacy can’t finish a close range shot after a spin move. Bernard King has thirty eight points. Well, make that forty with another made basket. Pippen turns the ball over on the next possession. Pippen nearly steals the ball from Bernard and Harvey misses a shot. Hodges nearly makes a three as the Bullets are up 99-95.
Pippen makes a left handed short range shot to cut the lead to two points. Harvey Grant picks up his fifth foul on the next Bullets possession. Hodges makes a long range bucket for two points to tie the game. Bernard King shows that he’s human and misses a shot. Horace is foul hard by Bernard in the paint to prevent an easy bucket. Horace makes one free throw to give the Bulls a one point lead, 100-99.
Bernard makes a close range jumper and has forty-two points. Pippen is called for an offensive foul and is out of the game having scored only eight points and having a subpar overall game for the second contest in a row. Bernard drives into the paint and Horace fouls out of the game, as well. Horace finishes with eleven points and isn’t happy with fouling out. Bernard makes one of two free throws and has made fifteen out of nineteen attempts from the line helping him get to forty-three points. The Bullets are leading 102-100.
Hodges makes a bad pass and turns the ball over. Bernard misses a short range shot and BJ is fouled by Bernard on a fast break attempt. BJ makes both shots to tie the game. Charles Jones is fouled on the inbound pass, but the Bulls had a foul to give. Jordan appears to steal the ball, but BJ is called for a foul. Bernard makes one of two and has forty-four points. Bullets lead 103-102.
Jordan has a good look with a mid range shot and comes up short. Walker misses a tough contested shot and the ball falls out of bounds. There’s eighteen seconds left and the Bulls have a chance to win the game.
Armstrong brings the ball up and gets the ball to Jordan. Jordan drives to the basket and there’s plenty of contact, but no foul is called. Bullets run up the court and time runs out on the Bulls. The Bullets prevail with a huge upset victory winning 103-102. The Bulls have lost their first two games of the season.
Jordan comes up short leading to the upset win.
The Bulls didn’t have an answer for Bernard King on this day. King was scorching in the fourth quarter and was making nearly all his shots in the quarter. Despite not playing very well, the Bulls had a good chance to win the game in the final seconds. That’s an indicator that they are figuring their groove out if they can be that close to winning after such poor play.
Scottie Pippen has been a major disappointment in these first two games. The narrative has always been that Jordan wouldn’t be as successful without Pippen, but these games have shown that Pippen is at the very least highly inconsistent on the offensive side. Scottie made a couple of selfish plays likely trying to get out of his funk that were costly.
Horace Grant didn’t have a good night from the floor, but he made up for that by getting to the free throw line twelve times. Craig Hodges is an asset off the bench with his ability to hit three point shots. It’s amazing how few times people attempt a three point shot compared to how the NBA functions in 2020. BJ Armstrong played more minutes than starter John Paxson managed to get twenty three minutes. Paxson is dealing with a hand injury. The Bulls flow a lot better with Armstrong on the court. I look forward to when BJ gets a chance to lead the team every night.
The next game to cover took place on November 6th in Chicago. The Boston Celtics square off with the Chicago Bulls. That should be a hell of a game with Bird, McHale and Parish. That game recap and commentary will be coming soon to the Challenge so be on the lookout for it!
G: CHI: Michael Jordan: 28PTS, 10RBS
G: CHI: Craig Hodges: 14PTS
G: CHI: BJ Armstrong, 8PTS, 4AST
F: WSH: Bernard King: 44PTS, 8RBS, 6AST
G: AJ English: 13PTS
F: Harvey Grant: 12PTS, 8RBS, 2STL