The Chicago Bulls may not have threepeated again in 1998 if it wasn’t for Michael Jordan giving his teammates the hairdryer treatment.
Reggie Miller and his Pacers were only the second team to take MJ’s Bulls to Game 7 during their championship run. It was a mark of just how good their opponents were that the Bulls constantly complained about refereeing decisions.
The Pacers surged to a 27-19 lead in the first quarter, but the Bulls battled back in the following period. They turned the 8-point deficit into a 48-45 halftime lead. But they were still smarting from some perceived bad calls by the referees.
The game devolved into a slugfest in the second half as both teams turned the clamps on. But the Bulls had the greatest scorer of all time in their ranks, so they managed to get the better of the situation.
A final scoreline of 88-83 reveals that this close game must have been a nerve-wracking affair even for the victors. Jordan confirmed that in the post-game presser by talking about his halftime speech in the locker room.
What did Michael Jordan say to his Bulls teammates at halftime in Game 7?
Jordan’s post-game comments clarified that he did indeed insist on his teammates refocusing their energy. In his mind, his teammates were getting way too much in their feelings about the bad calls:
“I just said that leave the referees alone. We can complain, and we can do whatever we have to say about the referees once we get into the locker room, but out there on the basketball court, we can’t control the game.”
“The referees control the game, and every time we may mouth off and say something, we’re giving away free points and digging ourselves a hole. So I just told them to shut up and play.”
Jordan finished with 28 points on the night. His shooting percentage of 36% (9-of-25 from the field) was less than ideal. But he made up for this by getting to the free throw line and making 10 of his 15 attempts from there.
Not pretty numbers, I know. But Game 7s have tended to be slugfests even in the post 3-pointer explosion era. Buckets are just hard to come by when teams are hanging on for all they’re worth.