Rookie helped Jordan win first playoff series
When Chicago prepared to retire Scottie Pippen’s number 33 in 2005, Bulls.com took a look at the legendary player’s greatest moments.
May 8, 1988: Bulls 107, Cleveland Cavaliers 101
Eastern Conference First Round, Game Five
Chicago Stadium | Box Score
Rookie Scottie Pippen carried the Bulls with key plays on both offense and defense down the stretch as he and Michael Jordan won their first NBA playoff series in 1988.
In a contest that Pippen then called “the most exciting game of my life,” the Bulls defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 107-101, at the Chicago Stadium to advance to the second round.
Jordan led the way with 39 points for the Bulls, but the story of the day was Pippen’s first start of his young career. He equaled his then-career-high with 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting and added six rebounds with five assists.
“Pippen looked more like a three or four year veteran,” Cavaliers forward Larry Nance remarked.
In a decisive third frame that saw Chicago outscore Cleveland by eight, Pippen swiped a team record three steals. His final steal of the quarter came with under a minute to go.
Pippen took it all the way back to lay it in and give the Bulls, who had trailed by as much as 18, their first lead of the game with 27 seconds to go in the quarter.
“I took a gamble and won,” Pippen said of the play.
“It was a big day for us as a franchise,” Bulls Head Coach Doug Collins said. In a then-subtle statement that would very much foreshadow the Bulls’ upcoming decade of dominance, Pippen said of his role: “They were really concentrating on [Jordan], and I was able to come up with easy buckets. My man was concentrating on stopping Michael from going to the hole, and I had to make myself available.”
Pippen’s emergence came right at the perfect time, propelling Chicago beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Even though they bowed out to the Detroit Pistons in the following series, Bulls fans could sense that they were on the verge of something special.