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It is Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls.
The Knicks barely edged out the Heat for the Atlantic Division title and all the glory of not getting Chicago until the third round of the playoffs that accompanies it.
Chicago has cruised through its first three playoff rounds, 3-0 over Cleveland and 4-1 over the Pistons (Grant Hill got nice one day).
Before Game One, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley bet New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani a Chicago deep dish pizza pie against a New York subway token that the Bulls win in six or less. Rudy agreed, and even threw in a coupon for a Papaya King hot dog.
As the saying goes, it was on.
Game One in Chicago was all Knickerbockers. Three minutes into the game, Charlie Ward-playing for the injured Chris Childs--delivered a hard foul on Michael Jordan, who still made the reverse layup.
Jordan took exception and a brawl ensued. When the dust finally settled, Ward, John Starks, Buck Williams and Luc Longley had been ejected and Jordan-much to his surprise--had been issued a technical.
Without Longley to dominate Patrick Ewing and find his way under the basket on backdoor plays, with Scottie Pippen shooting a robust 33 percent and with Jordan hesitant to get into the face of officials, the Bulls had no game.
The Knicks won handily, as Charles Oakley scored 24 points on 12-of-12 shooting from 18 feet out.
As expected, Game Two was an unexciting blowout victory for the Bulls. Jordan scored 56.
Game Three was all about intensity. The Garden was rocking before the tip, with celebrities Tom Brokaw, Woody and Soon-Yi, and Spike Lee assuming their usual courtside posts.
Knicks' coach Jeff Van Gundy had been blasted in the New York papers earlier in the day for calling the Bulls "a bunch of brats."
Jordan got mad. He scored 67, and the Bulls squeaked by in overtime on a desperation three by Ron Harper.
The Knicks rode Ewing's 34 to take Game Four, the Bulls cruised to a Game Five win and two clutch free throws by Starks bailed New York out in Game Four.
The home teams were clearly getting the job done. Rudy celebrated the Knicks' Game-Six win by using his Papaya King coupon.
So here we are. Game Seven. The city of Chicago is buzzing. The stores on Michigan Avenue close early in fear of riotous celebration to celebrate the anticipated Bulls win. The New York City Board of Education, in an unprecedented move, closed the schools for what it deemed "Herb Williams Day."
The scene at the United Center is hectic. President Clinton shows up on Jordan's invitation.
Hue Hollins and Hubert Davis are seated behind the Knicks bench. Charles Smith is also in attendance, lurking.
The Bulls ride the momentum of the boisterous chicago crowd to a 58-23 halftime lead. The Knicks look pathetic. Starks' shooting has been way off, Allan Houston has been non-existent and both Oakley and Ewing are in foul trouble.
New York is a different team in the second half. Ewing's fadeaway jumpers are falling, and Larry Johnson seems to have suddenly decided to be good, demonstrating a god-like array of post moves.
The Knicks are down just 13 entering the fourth quarter.
Dennis Rodman, upset about Ru Paul not being in the crowd, refuses to take the floor for the fourth. Gene Siskel appears to be balding--the fans are clearly nervous.
The Bulls' fourth-quarter strategy is to dump the ball into Jordan. But he's missing. He's missing on the tongue drive from the wing, missing on the turnaround from the baseline, missing on the spot-up threes.
Without Rodman, all of Jordan's misses are falling into the hands of the Knicks' front line. Houston turns it on in transition, hitting 5-of-6 from downtown in the quarter.
The Knicks have the ball, down two, with 6.5 seconds to go. With Oakley about to inbounds, Van Gundy calls a frantic time-out.
Hobbling from the Knicks' locker room is Childs. He walks onto the floor, tells Ward to take a seat and huddles with his teammates.
When play resumes, Childs dishes to John Wallace, who promptly delivers a facial to Scottie Pippen.
Yes, and it counts.
The Los Angeles Clippers await New York in the NBA Finals.
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