1997 NBA Finals Game 6: Bulls vs Jazz and the No Call That Changed the Series

1997 NBA Finals Game 6: Bulls vs Jazz and the No Call That Changed the Series

The Marquee Matchup: Michael vs Malone

Reliving the Bulls 5th title was something of a bittersweet experience, taking me back to an earlier less-complicated time in my life (single, no kids). Coming off a record setting 72-10 the year before, the Bulls cruised through the Eastern Conference playoffs before running into arguably their most formidable foe of any of their championship runs.

Featuring John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz were a gritty, no-nonsense team in the mold of their coach, former Bulls player and coach Jerry Sloan. Fortified by tough pros like Jeff Hornacek and Bryon Russell, the Jazz were able to push the Bulls to six games, the longest series the Bulls had that year.

The Jazz held a 6-8 point lead throughout much of this game. Due to the slow pace, an 8 point lead seemed much larger. With Michael Jordan resting to start the 4th, the Bulls went on a big run to tie the game. It was testament to the Bulls growth as a team that they were able to do this all season long by holding the fort down til Michael came back and did his 4th quarter magic.

Jud Beuchler’s 3 at the end of the 3rd got them going a bit, and Scottie Pippen harassed the Jazz into turnovers and hit another crucial 3 in the middle of the fourth. However, Scottie’s gambling on defense almost cost the Bulls the game, as Stockton made several beautiful passes to a cutting Shandon Anderson (Scottie’s man) for layups. Unfortunately for Jazz fans, Anderson bricked a reverse layup, got a dunk blocked, and with 30 seconds left, had another reverse roll off the rim. That miss proved crucial, particularly because Pippen grabbed the rim and pulled it down, shaking the support. There is no question this affected the bounce of the ball. But that’s not the question as far as goaltending – once Scottie grabbed the rim on the shot attempt, it is simply goaltending.

Steve Kerr’s heroic shot to win

Imagine the Bulls coming down the court with under 20 seconds to go, down by 2 instead of tied. The whole complexion of the game, and the series changes. If the Bulls don’t win Game 6 and have to go to a game 7 – something they rarely ever did in the playoffs and never did in the Finals, there’s no telling the outcome. Perhaps the Bulls break up the nucleus of that team if they don’t win again, Michael doesn’t get 6 rings, and the ripple effects continue. Steve Kerr is not the hero – does he then get a shot at general managing the Suns? Does he get a shot at doing color commentary on TV?

We can play “It’s A Wonderful Life” all day, but for Utah Jazz fans, this represented a bitter defeat after another let down by the referees. I’m sure they have no problem seeing David Stern retire in a year from now.

Box Score Courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

About The Author

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown, coached the Triangle Offense at the high school level, and counts Tex Winter and Pete Newell as mentors. For more of our conversation, follow him @BBALLBREAKDOWN.

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7 Comments

  1. John Sanders

    Coach Nick, great breakdown! Just one thing- not so sure about the emphasis you’ve been placing (in the video and on Twitter) regarding the Scottie basket interference. It was a missed call that should have been 2 points for the Jazz. But just before you pointed this out in the video, you also pointed out the no-call on MJ, which might have resulted in 2 points as well. Sure the Pip violation was a clearer violation that should have resulted in 2 SURE points, but do you really think we can pin down the history of the NBA on one no-call?

    (PS I know that is NOT what you mean here, but I just think that you’ve placed too much emphasis on this particular call.)

    Anyway, keep these awesome retro videos coming!

    1. Coach Nick

      Thanks! While the MJ no call was subjective, the Pippen goaltend wasn’t. There should have been no thought involved. It puts a whole different spin on the game if the Bulls were down 2 instead of tied…

    2. Dodgson

      Considering the constant illegal defense on the part of the Bulls all night they definitely got the calls. I cannot believe (still… and I thought anti-zone was dumb) that the refs refused to call something pointed out to them in real time about 50 times during a game. Disgusting officiating…. probably as bad as the Sacremento-Lakers fiasco.

      1. jazzfan

        I think the jazz suffered a lot of unfair calls throughout both NBA finals in 1997 and 1998. In my opinion game 6 of the 1998 finals was even worse than game 6 of the previous season. Remember that 24 sec violation call against Howard Eisley in the begining of the 2nd quarter as the ball was at least 5 feet away from his hand. Later in the 4th quarter Ron Harper was granted a basket that should have been denied for a 24 sec violation. The jazz lost by one point but they should have won, that’s what I call disgusting officiating. Who knows what would have happened in game 7, maybe the jazz would have won.

  2. LooneyBucky

    That’s disappointing that that goaltending call was missed. As a Bulls fan, to win with a critical missed call like that is a bit of a bummer even 15 years later. I appreciate the objectivity. 

    1. Coach Nick

      Thanks! I had totally forgotten about it, and the version of the game I recorded cut out where the announcers showed the replay… Have you seen our two latest from this year? BOS vs MIA, and Russell Westbrook’s meltdown…

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