Michael Jordan’s ice-cruel assists and free throw shooting were the difference Thursday afternoon, as he led the 1995-’96 Chicago Bulls to a 63-60 win in Miami over LeBron James and the reigning-champion Heat.
The home fans got a show, even if they’d hoped for a different outcome in this time-transcending matchup. James, whose first-half acrobatics dazzled, missed a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded that would have sent the game to overtime.
Jordan scored 32 points and added seven assists, none bigger than the kick-out to Bulls point guard Ron Harper for a 3 that gave Chicago a four-point cushion with 30 seconds left. Jordan continually thwarted Heat double teams, often finding open teammates like Harper, who took a Jordan feed for a wide-open dunk with 1:30 left.
Scottie Pippen had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists. His one-handed alley-oop off a fast-break feed from Jordan may have been the showiest play in a game packed with flashy dunks by James.
Pippen’s frequent attempts to defend James one-on-one were courageous but futile, particularly in crunch time as James repeatedly bulled to the basket and scored.
James finished the game with 22 points, three rebounds and five assists. His only 3-point shot attempt was the missed buzzer beater, which he released just above the outstretched hands of both Jordan and Harper.
Dwyane Wade scored 10 points against the harassing defense of Jordan. The two shooting guards spent much of the second half talking trash to one another. The third member of Miami’s “Big Three,” Chris Bosh, scored 12 points but was a non-factor on the glass, with just one rebound.
Jordan hit five of six free throw attempts over the game’s final 20 seconds, as the Heat purposely fouled to extend the game.
Dennis Rodman was scoreless, with five rebounds.