Bulls 107, Celtics 98
Nov. 02, 1996
BOSTON (AP) _ The Chicago Bulls actually struggled in their first game since posting the best record in NBA history. Then the second half began.
The Bulls began their quest for their fifth championship in seven seasons with a 107-98 win Friday night over the Boston Celtics. And Michael Jordan launched his run at a his ninth scoring title in 12 years by leading all players with 30 points.
Chicago erased an 11-point halftime deficit by outscoring Boston 22-6 at the start of the third quarter for a 70-65 lead. They trailed only once more the rest of the game.
Toni Kukoc added 20 points and Scottie Pippen 18 for the Bulls. Boston was led by Dana Barros with 24 and David Wesley with 19.
Despite Chicago's second-half dominance, the game was closer than expected.
Chicago went 72-10 last season, while Boston was 33-49 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.
The Bulls also have three of the top 50 players of the NBA's first half-century in a poll announced this week _ Jordan, Pippen and former Celtic Robert Parish. Two of the Celtics to make the list were at the game, too, but the long-retired John Havlicek and Bob Cousy were watching from the stands.
Parish began his 21st season, breaking a tie with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA record. He even made three key baskets in a row after Boston cut the lead to 86-85, building it back to 92-87 with 5:18 to play.
The score was 96-90 with 3:42 remaining, but Boston came no closer as Jordan, Kukoc and Pippen scored Chicago's last 11 points.
The Bulls won their sixth straight opener and the Celtics lost their fourth in a row.
Trailing 59-48 at halftime, Chicago started the third quarter with the 22-6 run as five different Bulls scored, but not Jordan. In fact, his only points of the period came on two free throws with 4.7 seconds left that increased the lead to 80-75.
The Celtics did have one edge _ Dennis Rodman was beaten out for the strangest hair. His was rose-colored and cropped close. But Boston's Pervis Ellison not only sported his customary dreadlocks but also had them pulled back in a short ponytail.
Rodman abandoned his shooting shyness by putting up _ and making _ the Bulls' first shot of the season, a layup on a pass from Luc Longley that drew a foul and resulted in a 3-point play.
But Boston also made its first shot of the season, a 20-footer by Wesley.
The Bulls went out to a 9-4 lead before Boston went on a 13-2 run that made the score 17-11 with 6:51 left in the first quarter. Wesley's driving layup with 6 seconds left gave the Celtics a 28-27 edge after one quarter.
Jordan's 16-footer tied the game 33-33 with 10:07 left before intermission, but the Celtics reeled off the next 16 points as Chicago went without a field goal for 5:27.
Notes: Parish, who starred for 14 seasons in Boston, received the biggest pre-game ovation, lasting 30 seconds. ... Dino Radja, the Celtics leading scorer and rebounder last season, missed the game with a sore right knee. ... Rodman, who was ejected from three games last season, picked up his first technical of the season just 4:40 into the game. ... Boston rookie Antoine Walker, the sixth pick in the draft, made his first shot as a pro _ a 3-pointer with 3:36 gone in the game. ... Exactly 50 years ago Friday, Red Auerbach won his first regular-season game as coach of the Washington Capitols. He later won nine NBA titles as the Celtics' coach.