first_imgIn the three years leading up to Michael Jordan’s first championship with the Chicago Bulls, the same team knocked him out of the playoffs each and every time.That team? The “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons. That stretch of Jordan’s career was highlighed in Episodes 3 and 4 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary. In 1988, the Pistons put an end to Chicago’s season by defeating them in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. In 1989, the Pistons outlasted the Bulls in six games in the Eastern Conference finals. And in 1990, the Pistons took care of business in seven games, once again in the Eastern Conference finals.MORE: Viral moments from “The Last Dance”Jordan still put up big individual numbers in each of those series, but the Pistons were able to contain him and the Bulls in a way no other team in the league could at the time. To put the success they had against him into perspective, if you look at which players won the most games against Jordan in his career (regular season and playoffs combined), the first seven names on the list are players from those Pistons teams, headlined by Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas.The most wins against Michael Jordan in his NBA career(Basketball-Reference )RankPlayerWinsLosses1Bill Laimbeer36302Isiah Thomas36293Vinnie Johnson35244Joe Dumars33375Dennis Rodman33266John Salley32287Rick Mahorn30328Robert Parish27259James Edwards261810Danny Ainge2618The way the Pistons did it was by implementing what has become known as “The Jordan Rules,” which is a set of principles devised by former Pistons head coach Chuck Daly after Jordan dropped 59 points on the Pistons in the lead-up to the 1988 NBA playoffs. The general idea was to limit Jordan the best they could by throwing different looks at him and being physical with him, all while daring his teammates to beat them. It began with Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman, who served as Detroit’s primary defenders on Jordan, and extended to the likes of Laimbeer, John Salley and Rick Mahorn, who were tasked with doubling Jordan and protecting the paint against him.MORE: Breaking down MJ’s iconic fadeawayRemember, this was at a time when hand checking was still legal. Teams could also get away with — shall we say — committing harder fouls than they do now.Brendan Malone, who was an assistant coach with the Pistons at the time, summed up the Jordan Rules in “The Last Dance.””On the wings we were going to push him to the elbow, and we’re not going to let him drive to the baseline.”No. 2, when he’s on top, we’re going to influence him to his left.”When he got the ball in the low post, we were going to trap him from the top.”That’s the Jordan Rules, and it was that simple.”And, when asked what would happen when Jordan did make the baseline, that’s when Malone responded: “That’s when Lambeir and Mahorn would go up and knock him down to the ground.”Or, as Rodman put it: “Chuck Daly said, ‘This is the Jordan Rule. Every time he go to the basket, put him on the ground. When he comes to the basket, he ain’t gonna duck. We’re gonna hit you, and you’re gonna be on the ground.'”It wasn’t until 1991 that Jordan would finally outlast the Pistons in the playoffs. He ended the team’s hopes of a three-peat that season by leading the Bulls to a sweep over the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals with averages of 29.8 points, 7.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. He was incredibly efficient, shooting 53.5 percent from the field, 60.0 percent from 3-point range and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.Jordan received plenty of help in that series, with Scottie Pippen (22.0), Horace Grant (13.5) and Bill Cartwright (10.5) each averaging double figures scoring. The Bulls went on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 Finals to win the first championship in franchise history. It marked the first of three straight titles for the Bulls.But for Jordan, the emotions of finally beating the Pistons were just as strong as capturing the NBA title.”We had gotten past them,” he said, “and to me, that was in some ways better than winning the championship.”last_img

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