Here's an interesting excerpt from Sam Smith's magnum opus The Jordan Rules
"The Bulls coaches had inspected [the basket in front of the Piston's bench] and believed the Pistons had tinkered with it. A rubber-and-foam piece usually found behind the rim appeared to be missing. [Phil] Jackson had studied tapes of the Pistons games noticed that whenever the Pistons were shooting at that basket, they had their best rebounders in the game and crashed hardest for offensive rebounds. Jackson knew the Pistons were one of the greatest teams ever at screening and hitting the boards, but this was different. It was almost as if they expected to miss more on this particular basket."
That passage is from a book written about the Chicago Bulls' 1990-91 championship season. Why am I bringing it up now? Because something struck me as particularly odd in Game 1 of the Bulls/Pistons series: The west-end* basket seemed tight. Exceptionally tight. Like, tight way beyond
what you would expect after almost 90 games of professional basketball.*Direction relative to how it is viewed on television.
The Pistons started the game shooting at the basket in question, and they gangbanged the boards for 12 of their 14 offensive rebounds en route to establishing a 13-point halftime lead. The Bulls switched to that basket for the second half, and things promptly went from "bad" to "tragic." Chicago scored only 28 points after halftime (an all-time team playoff low), including a 12-point fourth quarter. Speaking of that fourth quarter...the Bulls hit only one of their first 15 shots and ended the stanza 3-for-20.
Of course, some of the Bulls' second-half shots were -- as you would expect -- simply off the mark. But some of them were close to dead-on. If you go back and watch the game again, you'll notice that several shots were halfway down the cylinder before kicking back out like they were shot from a gun. Others hit the mark only to clunk off the rim like it was made of stone. There was absolutely no give whatsoever in the west-end basket. I mean, the physics were crazy wrong. I haven't seen anything quite like it in all my years of watching and playing basketball.
Mind you, I'm not trying to give the Bulls a free pass here. They sucked. As a team, they committed 22 turnovers that the Pistons converted into 19 points. The Chicago bench was beyond woeful, shooting a combined 3-for-3o ("led" by Andres Nocioni's 1-for-8 performance). Furthermore, the Pistons played an agressive and energetic brand of defense the Bulls never faced against the Heat.
That said...something was up with that west-end basket. I'm sure of it. And if you wanted to shake up a young and already nervous team, a little basket tampering would certainly do the trick. Maybe I'm wrong here, but it's worth noting that Joe Dumars, the Pistons' President of Basketball Operations, was a member of that "Bad Boys" Pistons team that Phil Jackson accused of such trickery back in the early 90s.
Labels: Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, NBA playoffs