World Champions for the first time in 1991
When Chicago prepared to retire Scottie Pippen’s number 33, Bulls.com took a look at the legendary player’s greatest moments.
Bulls 108, Los Angeles Lakers 101
June 12, 1991 | NBA Finals, Game 5
Great Western Forum | Box Score
In Chicago’s first-ever NBA Finals appearance, Scottie Pippen took the primary responsibility of guarding Magic Johnson in 1991 versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pippen’s stellar defensive effort altered the scope of the series and set the standard for teams searching for a taller, more athletic point guard to shut down opposing point guards.
During the regular season, Pippen gave the term “point forward” a new meaning after leading the team in assists and ranking second in scoring, rebounding and steals. Quite simply, Scottie did it all.
At first, all anyone could talk about was the Michael Jordan vs. Magic Johnson match-up. But as the series carried on, it was clear that it was going to take much more than one individual for either team to succeed.
Jordan was superb, averaging 31.2 points, 11.4 assists and 6.6 rebounds, but the Bulls were no one-man team. Their defense held the Lakers to a record-low 458 points for a five-game series.
“It’s tough to guard Magic and then go down and be expected to carry the load offensively,” Jordan said following the series opener. “It’s a challenge, but I have to do it.”At first, Head Coach Phil Jackson designated Jordan to guard Johnson, with relief help from Pippen.
However, things changed in Game 2 when the Bulls discovered a new defensive stopper. Pippen switched over onto Johnson after Jordan picked up his second personal foul in the first quarter and did an outstanding job on the Lakers’ star, pestering him into 4-for-13 shooting.
“I didn’t know what to expect to be honest,” Pippen said of the assignment.
“I had never defended Magic, and I had never defended a guy with his size and ability. So when Michael picked up that second foul, I just said I’d guard him.”
The Lakers were outmanned by the younger, more athletic Bulls. Wherever Johnson went, he was hounded by the fourth-year Pippen, who combined to pressure his every step and harassed him into 22 turnovers.
“I decided I was going to try to work him and wear him down as best as I could. That was my plan, and whether it affected him initially, I didn’t know if it would or not. I just focused on wearing him down for the long haul—not just that game but throughout the whole series.”
“We were all hyped and full of energy because it was our first time [in the Finals] and we were excited,” Pippen recalled.
The Bulls dropped the opening game in Chicago, but wouldn’t lose again, taking the series, 4-1. Pippen led all scorers in the decisive fifth game with 32 points and 13 boards and averaged 21.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.47 steals in 17 postseason games as Chicago earned its first title in its 25 years of existence.
Read Scottie Pippen’s Top 10 Greatest Moments here.