CHICAGO – When it comes to the 1989 NBA Playoffs, most people remember the moment from May 7th of that year, and who can blame them.
“The Shot,” or Michael Jordan’s game-winning jumper to beat the Cavaliers at the end of regulation in Game 5 to clinch the first round series for the Bulls, is one of the most iconic in NBA history.
But it wouldn’t be the only significant moment for the team in those playoffs, and the next one came 33 years ago on Thursday night.
That’s when the Bulls advanced to their first-ever Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Knicks 113-111 in Game 6 at Chicago Stadium. It gave them a 4-2 second round series victory over New York and the shot to face the Pistons for a chance at a spot in the NBA Finals.
The Bulls had made it to a conference finals before but never in the East. In 1974 and 1975, the team advanced only to lose to the Bucks and Warriors, respectively.
It was a tight contest that featured a wild final ten seconds in which the Bulls watched a four-point lead disappear when Trent Tucker hit a three-pointer and was fouled by Craig Hodges. His free throw right after that tied the game at 111 with six seconds to go.
But Michael Jordan, as he usually does, had an answer.
On the ensuing possession, he took the ball and drove into the lane and drew the foul on the shot to get a pair of free throws. He would hit both to finish with 40 points for the game and give the Bulls the lead, but the game wasn’t done.
In the final seconds, the Knicks got the ball down the floor to Johnny Newman who had a wide-open look at a game-winning three-pointer. But his shot was off the mark, and Chicago Stadium erupted as the Bulls had clinched a spot in their first Eastern Conference Finals.
The 1989 playoffs would mark the start of a long stretch for the Bulls in the conference finals, as they would appear in that round in eight of the next ten seasons. It wouldn’t be until 1991 when the Bulls finally won the East as they lost to the Pistons in six game in 1989 then in seven to Detroit in 1990.
Larry Hawley took a look back at this moment in #WGNTBT on this “Throwback Thursday” and you can see that in the video above.