Without a doubt, the Bulls and the Pistons have had some of the NBA's greatest players. The all-time selections for both of these franchises are quite impressive, and have combined to make countless All-Star teams and captured multiple NBA titles. Not to mention, both franchises have an extensive history as opponents and rivals in the Eastern Conference. Specifically, in the 90s, the Bulls and Pistons franchises were bitter rivals with genuine disdain for each other. The “Bad Boy” Pistons were the franchise in the way of Michael Jordan’s greatness, defeating the best player in the league multiple times in the playoffs and preventing him from capturing his first NBA championship.
It wasn’t until Jordan got enough help to overcome the Pistons that the player finally got over the hump as an NBA champion and he never looked back. But which franchise had a better all-time starting five? Both franchises have had all-time great players, including the best player ever in Michael Jordan on one side and 2-time NBA champion Isiah Thomas on the other side. Both of these franchises pride themselves on defense, passion, and winning so this will be a game for the ages. On paper, a series between them could do either way since both teams have incredible defense and scoring ability in very balanced lineups.
This series will be a dog fight from the first whistle, as both teams will be scrappy and hungry to win this one. With Detroit re-creating a lineup with their core of the Bad Boy Pistons, here is how Michael Jordan and the all-time Bulls tackle them.
Derrick Rose vs. Isiah Thomas
This will be a very intriguing matchup since both players are Hall of Fame superstars that relied on very different styles of play to dominate the game. Rose had pure athleticism, speed, and explosiveness while Thomas used his all-time great basketball I.Q. and leadership to dictate the pace of play. In a nutshell, both players will cancel each other's production.
Rose will bring the flashy style of play, and many watching the game will think that Rose dominated the matchup until they look at the stat sheet. Derrick Rose is simply unstoppable in one-on-one situations, and not even Thomas will be able to stop the Bulls point guard from averaging 23 PPG and 7 APG in the series. But Thomas has a bigger impact on his team, doing whatever it takes to give his team an advantage. Isiah Thomas realizes the Pistons will go as he goes, so he sets the tone early.
Michael Jordan vs. Joe Dumars
This will be another very intriguing matchup since MJ will clash with his long-term rival in Joe Dumars. Jordan is clearly a more talented player with an unstoppable offensive game, and Dumars will be very aware of that when competing against him. Jordan will average 33 PPG in the series, using his incredible back-to-the-basket play to get himself open fadeaway jumpers and even spin towards the rim on countless occasions throughout the series.
Meanwhile, Dumars brings two-way All-Star intangibles and his partnership with Thomas in the backcourt will be the driving force of the team. Dumars is smart enough to realize that MJ is an incredibly talented player, and will do his utmost best to deny him the ball as much as possible. In the end, Jordan gets the individual edge although Dumars does not back down in any way.
Scottie Pippen vs. Grant Hill
Pippen will be tasked with playing defense and minimizing Hill’s impact on the offensive end. Grant Hill was a very prolific scorer and made a living off of scoring the ball inside and from the perimeter. Pippen will have to deal with his scoring by picking him up as soon as he crosses half-court, and always switching back onto him. He will have some success since he is one of the best defenders of all time. But the extremely explosive Hill will still find a way to get his buckets and will be the leading scorer of the Pistons (27 PPG).
Offensively, Pippen will play within the system and feed off of Rose and Jordan. While Rose likes to have the ball in his hands, Pippen will do some of the ball-handling to free him up a bit so he can catch the ball and attack the rim as much as possible. The Pistons will be feisty, so Pippen’s ball-handling will come in handy down the stretch.
Dennis Rodman vs. Ben Wallace
This is a very interesting matchup since both sides have similar yet different versions of defensive power forwards. Rodman is extremely limited offensively and will be asked to rebound the ball at a very high level. This will be easier said than done because the presence of Big Ben could be an issue. Chicago’s Rodman knows his place, focuses on defense, and looks flashy doing it.
Wallace will turn it up later in the series to greatly minimize Rodman’s effectiveness by standing tall and defending without fouling. The 4-time Defensive Player of the Year will be a nuisance all game long and will bother some of Rose's drives to the lane. Wallace will also be the key (along with Laimbeer) to rather low-scoring games later in the series because his tenacity is almost unrivaled. This matchup will be the essence of defense, size, and hustle on both ends.
Artis Gilmore vs. Bill Laimbeer
Finally, the center position. Gilmore will have his way early with a rather unexplosive Laimbeer, who will struggle with fouls early on in the series. Gilmore will also play well alongside Rodman, who will use their size and strength together to box out Detroit’s bigs to win the rebound battle early.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s Laimbeer will be the most active defender in the series alongside Ben Wallace. He is not as flashy as Gilmore but does not need to be. The aggressive defender will be tasked with acting as a powerhouse rim protector whenever Jordan drives to the paint in order to help out Dumars. With Gilmore and Laimbeer clashing on multiple occasions during the series, it certainly makes for entertaining basketball.
Chicago Bulls Advantage
The Chicago Bulls have something the Detroit Pistons don’t: Michael Jordan. The greatest scorer of all time has his way with every opponent he faces, and the Pistons won’t be the exception. Unlike in the early years of Jordan’s career, the shooting guard will have plenty of help in the forms of superstar offensive players and dominant bigs. Whenever Jordan has All-Star help, he almost always leads his teams to victory. The Pistons, even with their rough style of play, will eventually fall victim to MJ.
The Bulls also have a ton of superstar talent with the likes of Derrick Rose averaging over 20 PPG. Michael never played with a scorer as talented as Rose in his career, because the point guard might be the most athletic point guard in NBA history. Jordan and Rose will form the most athletic backcourt ever which spells trouble for Detroit.
Detroit Pistons Advantage
The Pistons have an advantage in one key area: tough defensive play. The Bulls are an elite defensive team, but the Pistons will base their entire style of play on tough plays and even dirty tricks at times. The backcourt of Thomas and Dumars will be tough to handle, and even the Bulls will eventually become bothered by the Hall of Fame duo.
With the likes of Laimbeer and Wallace acting as all-time great irritants, they will pull Chicago out of character as the series draws on. In terms of offensive talent and athleticism, the Pistons cannot compare with Chicago but they find their edge and feed off that. Not to mention, Detroit has a unique talent in Grant Hill who will put a ton of pressure on Scottie Pippen.
Who Wins A Best Of 7 Series?
The Chicago Bulls get stunned by the Pistons in Game 1. Michael has an unbelievable game with 42 points, but he is still unable to overcome Detroit’s game plan early on. Thomas and Dumars set the tone early, sharing technical fouls in the first half. Derrick Rose struggles in the first half, scoring 6 points on 2-9 shooting. Meanwhile, Thomas and Dumars score 15 apiece to enter the second half. Jordan heats up in the second half, scoring 30 points despite constant double and triple teams. But it isn’t enough, as the Pistons shut down everyone else en route to a 5-point victory.
Game 2 is all Chicago, as Gilmore and Rodman begin acting as bodyguards for their stars. Rose and Jordan heat up early, finishing with 36 points combined in the first half. Detroit realize Chicago’s All-Star backcourt begin taking over and start acting up to their old tricks again. Thomas commits a hard foul on Rose when the Bulls guard drives to the basket at full speed, kickstarting a scuffle. It takes multiple technical fouls and at least 4 minutes of pause before the second half commences. In the end, Detroit struggle from the field and fail to get off a game-tying shot to give Chicago a 2-point victory.
Game 3 is all about Jordan and Pippen. The superstar duo completely dominate the first quarter, scoring a combined 25 points as Chicago scores 40 points in the quarter. Detroit find themselves in a deep hole, down 40-26 after the first quarter as they try to dig themselves out. They fail to do so, despite 41 points from Grant Hill. Most of Hill’s offense comes when the game is eventually over, but the small forward certainly uses that to take over Game 4.
Hill dominates with a triple-double, dominating all areas of the floor. The explosive forward drops 33 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, and 5 steals to lead Detroit to victory. Jordan scores 35 points but has to take 27 shots to get it. Thomas drops a game-high 15 assists as well while limiting Rose to 7-21 shooting. Grant Hill makes his mark on the series, and the Bulls will need Pippen to rediscover his defensive ability in Game 5.
Game 5 goes down to the wire in a rather low-scoring affair. The game finishes 93-87 in favor of Chicago, but the big men take control. Artis Gilmore paves the way with a 20-20 double-double, but Wallace grabs 15 boards and blocks 5 shots. The bigs go at it early, setting the tone for the scorers that the paint will be closed. The Bulls have to live with constant double-teams on MJ, and Rose once again cannot find his scoring (9-24 FG). The Pistons struggle on offense as well and have to rely on Hill (24 points) and Wallace to keep them in the game. But Gilmore’s presence and Jordan’s clutch shot-making prove to be the difference.
Once again, Game 6 goes down to the wire. Thomas drops 20 points in the first half, including 3 3-pointers. Isiah will not lie down to the Bulls’ athleticism and finds a way to give his team a 55-52 lead in the first half. But the second half completely turns, because Chicago cannot be stopped. Rose ends up with 28 points, but Michael Jordan takes over starting late in the 3rd quarter. MJ caps off the third with 8 straight points, giving the Bulls an 80-76 lead. The fourth is much of the same because Jordan scores another 10 points in the 4th. Pippen, Rodman, and Gilmore remain focused defensively; as their backcourt leads them home. Despite 28 points from Hill and Thomas each, the Bulls win the series before Game 7.
Final Result: Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons 4-2
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan