AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- They ended years of frustration. They ended the Detroit Pistons' two-year reign as champions. And now, the Chicago Bulls can begin thinking about playing in the National Basketball Association championship series for the
Making it look easy, the Bulls completed a four-game sweep of the Pistons with yesterday's 115-94 victory at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Chicago dominated the Eastern Conference championship series from start to finish, sweeping the proud Pistons aside as if they were a nuisance instead of defending champions.
"To say that this is unexpected, to sweep this team, is an understatement," said Phil Jackson, Chicago's coach. "But after losing to this team for three years, I think we deserve a shot."
The Pistons tried physical play, lineup changes and anything else they could think of to avoid being dethroned at home. None of it worked. The Bulls were too determined, too poised and too good to be denied. And now, Michael Jordan (29 points yesterday) and the Bulls have an 11-1 record in the playoffs.
Chicago turned the game into a rout in the third quarter, building a 57-50 halftime lead into an 87-70 lead after three quarters. The closer the Bulls got to victory, the more determined they became. Their swarming defense frustrated the Pistons. And their offense worked like a well-oiled machine as they passed smartly, made open shots and gave the ball to Jordan whenever they were in doubt.
With 4 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game and trailing, 103-80, the Pistons conceded. Coach Chuck Daly removed Isiah Thomas (16 points) and Joe Dumars as the Pistons hugged each other on the bench, knowing their dream of winning three consecutives titles had died.
"At this point, I think Chicago's a better club than we are," Daly said. "Any club that can handle us four straight deserves to go to the finals."
As they have done throughout the series, the Bulls put the Pistons in an early hole in taking a seven-point margin at halftime.
Daly changed the starting lineup, replacing Dennis Rodman at small forward with Mark Aguirre. Rodman scored just 12 points in the first three games of the series, and Daly felt the Pistons could not win without more scorers on the court.
The game was even until Detroit, which has had trouble keeping its cool, lost its poise late in the first quarter. After James Edwards was called for a questionable offensive foul, both Daly and his assistant, Brendan Suhr, received technical fouls for arguing.
That sequence hurt Detroit because John Paxson made both free throws before following with a 16-foot jump shot. That triggered an 8-0 run that propelled Chicago to a 32-26 lead after one quarter.
Play took on a violent nature midway through the second quarter as Rodman showed how the Pistons got their Bad Boys nickname. After driving to the basket, Scottie Pippen was
confronted in midair by Bill Laimbeer and Rodman. Laimbeer shoved Pippen in the chest, then Rodman added to Pippen's pain by pushing Pippen out of bounds into the first row of seats.
It took Pippen about 30 seconds to get off the ground as Detroit was called for a flagrant foul. Considering how hard Rodman pushed him, Pippen was fortunate not to be injured. Rodman was fortunate not to be ejected.
That was only the beginning. Rodman and Pippen spent the next two minutes exchanging words, dirty looks and angry shoves. But to Pippen's credit, none of this threw him off his game. He led all first-half scorers with 14 points en route to a 23-point game as the Bulls continued to exploit Detroit's defense with their superior quickness.
Detroit can usually depend on its defense to shut down the opposition. But no matter what the Pistons tried, Chicago consistently got high-percentage shots. None of the Pistons could defend Jordan or Pippen one-on-one, which left openings all over the court for the Bulls.