With no live NBA basketball for the foreseeable future, we have to get our basketball from somewhere. Life is just not the same without it.
Luckily, there is a treasure trove of basketball highlights on YouTube (or is it The YouTube?), including many games in their entirety. You can go back and watch from start to finish random games from just about any era of the NBA.
So, I went back and watched a game I hadn't seen since I was a kid: Game 1 of the 1997 first round playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Bullets. Here are five takeaways from what I saw...
Bullets showed their inexperience
The Bulls came into this game winners of four of the previous six NBA titles, while the Bullets hadn't played a postseason game as a franchise in nine years. So, naturally, the difference in playoff experience became evident very early on.
Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, the Bullets' two talented forwards, got into foul trouble quickly and were non-factors for most of the game. Howard got going late, but Webber never found a rhythm and ultimately fouled out, though in his defense some of the calls were questionable.
Chicago killed them on the boards with 20 offensive rebounds. And Washington deeply hurt their own cause with 22 turnovers, compared to the Bulls' 11. Those were two big reasons why Chicago won the game, 98-86.
Webber and Howard being in foul trouble took a hit on the entertainment value of this game. But Howard did provide one big-time dunk.
Muresan was ridiculously tall
Many of the Bullets' key players struggled, but Gheorghe Muresan mostly played well. He ended up with 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. He blocked both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on separate occasions.
Muresan showed he had some toughness and some skill, the latter being evident on a series of midrange shots. But what stood out most about him, of course, was how absolutely ridiculously tall he was. It was just absurd, even in the context of the NBA where everyone is a giant.
Muresan was listed at 7-foot-7. Look how he towers over Pippen (6-foot-8) and Jordan (6-foot-6) on these blocks.
Muresan had to compensate for both Webber and Howard being in foul trouble. That created extra time for him to duke it out with Dennis Rodman, who did some very Dennis Rodman things. First, he showed up late to pregame warmups because he thought the game started at 7:30 p.m. and not 7. He was benched by Phil Jackson in the fourth quarter for bad behavior, then returned only to get ejected.
And he left the court in ultimate Rodman fashion, clapping at the referee and taking his jersey off en route to the locker room.
Muresan, to his credit, did a lot to get under Rodman's skin throughout the game.
Jordan took over... several times
As years goes on, the memories of legendary athletes sometimes pass through a rose-colored prism to the point of hyperbole. We forget the bad and inflate the good, and sometimes that takes a player's reputation beyond what they actually were.
That was not the case for Jordan, really at all. He was as-advertised, and when you go back and watch games where he was in his prime, you are reminded just how dominant and great he was. In this game, he led all scorers with 29 points, 11 of which came in a fourth quarter where he imposed his will on the offensive end.
But where he stood out most against the Bullets was on defense where he effectively shut down Bullets All-NBA point guard Rod Strickland. Jordan began the game picking him up at three-quarter court and the only time Strickland could get anything going was when Jordan was either switched onto another player or resting on the bench.
Defense was one of the main separators for Jordan and it's one of the primary reasons he is considered by most to be the best basketball player of all time. You don't often see players nowadays be both the central focus of their team's offense and take on the toughest defensive assignments on the other end of the floor.
Broadcasters were familiar
The more things change, the more they stay the same. It was amazing to look back at the 1997 broadcast by TNT and see a lot of recognizable faces. Ernie Johnson was hosting the studio show and Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown were calling the game. All three are still active, now 23 years later.
There was also the late great Craig Sager as the sideline reporter, who interviewed then-Bullets executive Wes Unseld during the game.
And, if you paid close attention, you saw current Nationals radio play-by-play announcer Charlie Slowes in the background. He used to call Bullets games on the radio way back when.
This series, which the Bulls won 3-0, produced two incredible Jordan stories, both told by Webber years later. One was before Game 2, when Jordan went into the Bullets' locker room:
"I saw Michael Jordan come into our locker room with a cigar, while it was lit, and said, ‘Who’s going to check me tonight?’ And we looked at Calbert Cheaney and we were laughing like little school kids knowing that Calbert Cheaney was going to get him, we knew it wasn’t a game for Mike."
The other, Webber recalled, was when the Bullets got off the bus and Jordan was leaning on a black Ferrari, again smoking a cigar, this time with Pippen:
"We get off the bus and we have to pass them with a lit cigar. You want to talk about posturing? Forget Phil Jackson. You got Michael Jordan there behind the scenes smoking a cigar before the game, letting us know that he’s the Red Auerbach before the game even started. It was almost like, ‘I lit the cigar. I’m celebrating already. This is just a formality, you guys getting on the court tonight.”
Jordan was just different. And the Bullets found that out the hard way in 1997.
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS: