By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Dasher and Dancer. Cookies and milk. Mistle and toe.
The Bulls and the Knicks.
Yes, some things just seem to go together on Christmas. Or, at least, they sure did back when I was growing up during the 1980s and ’90s and epic Bulls-Knicks clashes often seemed as much a part of Dec. 25 as Santa hats and piles of discarded wrapping paper.
Here on Christmas Day 2012, the Bulls aren’t facing the Knicks, as they’ll instead play host to the Houston Rockets at 7 p.m. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, there also will be no holiday unwrapping of injured Bulls superstar Derrick Rose, who is still recovering from his ACL injury.
Without Rose seeing red, tonight’s game could make for a Blue Christmas. But, either way, I thought it would be fun to revisit the ghosts of Christmas past and take a look back at my three most memorable Dec. 25 Bulls games – as you can expect, all three of those were the Bulls’ battles against the Knicks.
Dec. 25, 1986: The Knicks’ Best Performance
In one of their first of many high-profile battles during their lengthy careers, a 23-year-old Michael Jordan squared off with 24-year-old Patrick Ewing on Christmas Day in ‘84.
Jordan scored 30 points in the game, but it wasn’t enough as Ewing drained a putback jumper as time expired to give New York an 86-85 victory.
Dec. 25, 1992: Michael Jordan’s Best Performance
Jordan would have to wait six years to get his holiday revenge on Ewing. But come 1992, he got it. And then some.
Throughout his career, Jordan actually didn’t fare particularly well in games on Christmas, it was the one day of the year when he proved fairly mortal. In this game, however, MJ put up the finest Christmas performance of his career, pouring in 42 points while adding eight rebounds, five assists and three steals as the defending NBA champion Bulls rolled to an 89-77 victory.
Dec. 25, 1994: Pippen’s Best Performance
By the time the mid-’90s rolled around, the Bulls-Knicks rivalry had reached its apex. But that was in large part because, in 1994, the Knicks were able to take advantage of Michael Jordan’s absence as he scratched his minor league baseball itch. Without Jordan standing in the way, the Knicks had claimed supremacy in the Eastern Conference by knocking the Bulls from the NBA playoffs the previous spring.
On Christmas Day ’94, however, Scottie Pippen showed that the Bulls still had punch while they awaited MJ’s return later that season. Despite being surrounded by a ho-hum supporting cast of starters that included Dickey Simpkins, Will Perdue, B.J. Armstrong and Ron Harper, Pippen still led Chicago to a 107-104 victory.
He racked up 36 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and two blocks – and received 25 points in support from Toni Kukoc – as the Bulls overcame Patrick Ewing’s 30-point performance.
Eighteen years after the Bulls were missing Jordan in that Christmas Day tilt, this year’s team will be without its leader (Rose) when they face the Rockets tonight.
Perhaps a game tape of Pippen in 1994 can show the Bulls some pointers on how to still get this holiday done right.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.