Monday, June 14, 2010

Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 4, 1993 Eastern Conference Semifinals

It is our 100th post at The Canon Review. To celebrate this milestone, I will do a post much like the first one, where I watch and review a classic NBA game. Because this is the 100th post, I decided to review a game which featured the 100th leading scorer in NBA History, Larry Nance. The game I have chosen is probably one Nance wouldn't mind forgetting, as this game featured the Bulls closing out a four-game sweep of the Nance's Cavaliers on a last-second shot by Michael Jordan. Interestingly enough, this would prove to be the last playoff game that Larry Nance ever played in, as the 6'10" former Slam Dunk Champion was injured and missed the 1994 playoffs, then retired after that season. Anyway, the Bulls won this game 103-101 on Jordan's last second shot, even though Cleveland outplayed the Bulls and led for the majority of the game. The game ended the series, and marked the third time in five seasons that the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls. A few notes from this game:

- At the beginning of the game, the announcers speculated that if Cleveland were to lose, than this could be the last game for coach Lenny Wilkens. Sure enough, the Cavs lost, and Wilkens was fired the next week. Wilkens wasn't out of a job long, as he accepted the head coaching position with the Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, the Cavs replaced Wilkens with former Hawks' coach Mike Fratello, who the next year led the Cavs back to the playoffs, only for Cleveland to be swept in the first round by none other than the Chicago Bulls. Which just goes to show, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or something like that.

- The Cavaliers of this era were, and still are criticized for being too soft and passive. Well, they came out in this game trying to disprove that, as point guard Mark Price elbowed B.J. Armstrong, and center Brad Daugherty hit Michael Jordan hard on one shot attempt, drawing a flagrant foul because it was obvious that Daugherty just wanted to make contact instead of going after the ball. Nevertheless, the message was sent and the Cavaliers were quite aggressive, particularly in the first half. However, as the game wore on, the Cavs, with the exception of Nance and Gerald Wilkens, went back to their old, passive ways, as the Bulls would become the aggressor as the game went on.

- The announcers kept giving Daugherty a hard time for his performance during the first three games of the series, and for good reason, as his points and rebounds averages were down from his regular season totals. In this game, Daugherty played 3/4ths of a good game, as he scored 25 points and grabbed 13 boards. However, he didn't score at all in the fourth quarter, and kept committing dumb fouls and eventually fouled out of the game with less than two minutes to go. Daugherty was actually a heck of a player in his heyday, an athletic 7-footer who was known as the best passing center in the league and constantly put up 20 and 10 each night. His main problems were a lack of shot-blocking skills (although he had three in this game, Daugherty averaged 0.7 shot blocks a game for his career, rather low for a center) and that he couldn't put his team on his back during tight moments. He just never could be the superstar Cleveland needed, but he still was a fine basketball player.

- Mark Price was also a heck of a player, heck, he was named to the All-NBA first team, ahead of Joe Dumars, John Stockton, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, and every other guard not named Jordan. You wouldn't have guessed that from this game, as B.J. Armstrong was too quick for Price, and Price just could never shake the Bulls point guard. Because of this, Price only played 25 minutes, and backup Terrell Brandon got much of the crunch time minutes at point guard for the Cavs. Brandon played well, but he made a huge turnover that cost the Cavs the lead late in the fourth quarter. Even though he struggled early, Price was their best player all season long, and for Wilkens to keep him on the bench for that long of a time, in the most important game of the season, was a rather curious move. Put it this way, I wouldn't have stuck with Brandon (who, btw, wasn't a bad player himself, although at this point he lacked experience) for as long as Wilkens did.

- Jordan and Scottie Pippen actually struggled in the first, combining to shoot 7-20 during that half. The announcers kept bringing up the fact that Jordan had a bad wrist, which played a part in his struggles. However, by the second half, it seemed as if Jordan forgot about the pain and went to work, finishing with 31 points, 23 of which came in the second half.

- Other than Daugherty, the Cavs' best player in the game was Gerald Wilkins, a swingman who was signed to help stop Michael Jordan. We'll get to that in a moment, but for the game, Wilkins scored 22 points, had 6 assists, and generally made life difficult for both Jordan and Pippen on the defensive end.

- However, Wilkins, anointed the "Jordan stopper" by the media, drew the fateful assignment at the end of the game. With the score tied, Jordan received the ball at the right elbow with seven seconds left. Curiously, Cleveland decided not to double team Jordan on this play, even though everyone watching knew he would be the one shooting. Wilkins actually defended Jordan well on the play, knocking the ball loose and keeping Jordan from driving in. At the last second, Jordan took a difficult turnaround jumper of Wilkins and an on coming John "Hot Rod" Williams, and like many times before and after, Jordan swished the bucket, giving the Bulls the series.

Overall, this was an entertaining game, not only in the sense of the game itself, but also because it would represent the end of an era for Cleveland, as Wilkens was fired, and Daugherty, Nance, and Price, the core of the great Cavaliers teams of the late 80s and early 90s, would soon be broken up as well (Price would be traded after the 1994-95 season, while both Nance and Daugherty would end up retiring after the 1993-94 season, Nance due to age, and Daugherty due to injury). The Cavaliers of that time were a very good team, that could beat nearly anyone across the court from them, just not the Chicago Bulls. As for the Bulls, they would go on to beat the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns to win their third straight NBA Title. Then Jordan retired and came back and we won't get into all of that right now.

Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any ideas for future posts, than send them to me either by e-mail at or by some other means. Sorry for the lack of activity in the last week or so, but I promise that that is going to change, so keep your eyes peeled for constant updates to Canon GA's number one blog, the Canon Review.

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