Chicago Bulls

Best Bulls team of all-time? Let's settle the argument

Quarterfinal matchups decided by simulated games via Strat-O-Matic

NBC Universal, Inc.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

With the In-Season Tournament knockout games set and the Chicago Bulls on the outside looking in, what better time to Settle the Argument of the greatest Bulls team of all-time?

With the help of our partners at Strat-O-Matic, simulated games with real play-by-play and box scores will play out over the coming days to crown a champion. And what delicious dynastic matchups await.

The top-two seeds, the 1995-96 Bulls and 1991-92 Bulls, received byes. The best-of-five quarterfinal matchups are the No. 3 seeded 1996-97 Bulls vs. the No. 6-seeded 1992-93 Bulls and the No. 4-seeded 1997-98 Bulls vs. the No. 5-seeded 1990-91 Bulls.

Those teams merely went a combined 249-79 during their regular seasons.

Right from the opening tip of their Game 1 quarterfinal matchup, the 1996-97 team meant business. Michael Jordan sliced inside to score 12 seconds after tipoff to open a 16-3 run on the 1992-93 Bulls to announce this could be a short series.

It’s no surprise. The 1996-97 team led the league in offensive and net rating and finished fourth in defensive rating. They stormed to their title with just four playoff losses.

Ultimately, the 1996-97 team prevailed 116-108 in the opener. Scottie Pippen scored 36 points and Jordan added 33 while Dennis Rodman grabbed 12 rebounds. Jordan and Pippen only combined for 52 points for the 1992-93 team, a testament to the 1996-97 squad’s long-armed defense featuring Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc.

That defense only intensified in the second game as the 1996-97 team prevailed 95-87 over the 1992-93 team. Pippen sank a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 16 seconds left to break a tie and open a game-changing 9-2 run. Pippen again led the 1996-97 team with 30 points, while Jordan added 25 and Rodman snagged 16 rebounds.

During the regular season, Pippen played his jack-of-all-trades game. He averaged 20.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.5 blocks. He also played all 82 games and averaged close to 38 minutes a game. He was relentless.

The 1996-97 closed out the quarterfinal sweep with a 120-112 victory in Game 3. Jordan reminded all who the GOAT is with 46 points,. That included a 3-pointer with 4:41 left that, along with a Ron Harper fast-break basket on the next possession, helped the 1996-97 team pull away after B.J. Armstrong had scored to cap a 7-0 run that pulled the 1992-93 team within 107-104 with 5:01 left.

Jordan had incorporated the 3-point shot into his game more frequently that season. He shot 37.4 percent on a career-high 3.6 attempts.

In the second quarterfinal matchup, the 1990-91 team prevailed 113-100 over the 1997-98 team in the opener. The younger Jordan’s 37 points led four in double figures, including 20 from Pippen, 14 from Armstrong and 12 from John Paxson.

But the fourth-seeded 1997-98 Bulls evened the series with a 102-100 victory in Game 2. Jordan scored 30, including free throws with 4 seconds remaining for a four-point lead. That followed a Rodman layup with 47 seconds to play to give the 1997-98 team the lead for good. The younger Pippen got whistled for a crucial offensive foul after Rodman’s hoop.

Game 3 featured the younger Pippen in the spotlight. During the regular season, Pippen posted three triple-doubles. And he flirted with one in the 1990-91 team’s 109-96 victory, finishing with 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

The 1990-91 team then closed out the series with a 107-88 victory in Game 4. A 23-6 run early in the fourth erased an 11-point deficit and pushed the lower seed to the semifinals. Jordan scored 31 points, Pippen added 24 and Craig Hodges shot 2-for-3 on 3-pointers as part of his 10 points.

These results set up semifinal matchups of the No. 1-seeded 1995-96 Bulls vs. the No. 5-seeded 1990-91 Bulls and the No. 3-seeded 1996-97 Bulls vs. the No. 2-seeded 1991-92 Bulls.

Check back next week as we Settle the Argument on the greatest Bulls team of all-time.

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