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Clippings: Michael Jordan meets up with the Clippers during “The Last Dance”

Michael Jordan took out his frustrations with the Bulls’ play to start the 1997-98 season against the lowly Clippers.

Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It seemed like the entire NBA family tuned in to watch “The Last Dance” Sunday night, a documentary film telling the story of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. What most people probably didn’t expect was an appearance by the 1997-98 Los Angeles Clippers.

And yet, a pivotal moment in the second episode takes place at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, where Chicago was looking for its first road win of the season in five tries. The team was without Scottie Pippen, whose choice to delay ankle surgery provides a central source of conflict for the early part of the series. As a result, Michael Jordan and the Bulls were desperate to win, and the film shows Jordan in the pregame huddle delivering an typically motivational speech:

Let’s go out and get our first [road] win. I ain’t gonna say this s**t again.

The Clippers, as might be expected for this era, were not a good team. They were 1-10 to start the year, would finish with 17 wins, and as David Aldridge noted in the documentary, they were “a joke”.

Against all odds, the Clippers came out firing against Chicago. They led by 18 in the second quarter, and though they had swindled that lead by halftime, still kept pace with the Bulls for the rest of the contest. Lamond Murray had 24 points and Brent Barry added 17, including two free throws with 10 seconds left to take the game into overtime. Unfortunately, Darrick Martin missed a jumper that would have won the game at the end of the first extra session, and the Clippers went scoreless in the second overtime. It was the seventh time in the shot clock era that a team failed to score in an overtime period.

Instead, the Bulls won, and Jordan’s 49-point output was the story. The documentary does the great service of sharing part of Ralph Lawler’s call during the game. A couple snippets:

And the answer to the question ‘is Michael Jordan tired?’ No.

No question, we saw greatness here tonight.

The Clippers played the Bulls even closer when the teams met in Chicago later that year, losing by five, one the rare highlights in a miserable year. At least instead of utter irrelevance, their season is remembered as a footnote in the story of “The Last Dance”.

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