Steve Kerr explains how Alonzo Mourning triggered Michael Jordan to dominate the Heat in Game 5 of the 1997 ECF, as the big man elbowed Scottie Pippen on his head.
Back in 1996, the Chicago Bulls behind the leadership of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were looking very strong to win their 5th title in 7 years. Coming off a championship season, the Bulls ended their regular season with an incredible 69-win record.
Entering the playoffs, Miami Heat with 61 regular-season wins that season was looking to be their strongest opponents in the Eastern Conference. However, it was pretty easy for Chicago to win the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals. And in Game 4, it was the Heat who grabbed an 87-80 win behind Alonzo Mourning’s 18-point and 14-rebounds double-double performance.
Apart from leading Miami to their lone victory of that season, Mourning even injured Scottie by elbowing him to the head, giving him a huge bump on his forehead. And it is safe to say, MJ took Alonzo’s this action personally and came out all guns blazing the next game.
“We come out in Game 5, and I want it to be a grudge match”: Michael Jordan
Steve Kerr explains His Airness’ response to Alonzo Mourning bumping Pippen’s head with his elbow. Back in 1997, Kerr and Phil Jackson revealed:
“Alonzo Mourning was doing a lot of talking the entire series,” Kerr said. “And when he elbowed Scottie and Scottie got the bump on his head, I think Michael kind of took it personally.”
Jackson added: “That set Michael off. So he came back into practice after that weekend on Tuesday. He said, ‘Guys, this one is a personal test. We come out there in Game 5, I want this game to be a grudge match.’”
And as expected, the Bulls did enter Game 5 with a vengeance. In Scottie’s absence, it was Air Jordan’s 28-point performance that helped Chicago win the contest 100-87. and eventually the series 4-1.
The Chicago Bulls went on to defeat the Jazz 4-2 in the NBA Finals to lift the 2nd championship of their 2nd three-peat.