2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Unlike Detroit, Cleveland never had an answer for Michael Jordan. He averaged 45.2 points per game, shot 55.9% from the field, and took zero threes during the series. The next highest scorer on the team was Charles Oakley with 10.8 points per game. The Cavaliers had a more balanced offense, where five guys averaged double digits in scoring, but their inability to stop Jordan cost them the series.
Next year Cleveland had home-court advantage, but still couldn’t get past Chicago. In one of the most memorable series of all time, Bulls had a chance to close the series in Game 4, but Michael missed a free throw and Chicago lost in overtime.
In Game 5, which was a close game all the way through the finish, the Cavs took the lead with 3 seconds left. But it was just enough time for Jordan to hit one of the most iconic shots ever. This time Michael averaged 39.8 points per game, but Scottie Pippen emerged with 15 points per game.
Again, Cleveland had more balanced offense, but couldn’t get past the Bulls. And again, the series was close with neither team winning in double digits. Overall, the Bulls’ margin was 4 points through the whole series. After that, because of the injuries of Ron Harper and Brad Daugherty, the Cavs barely made the playoffs in 1990. A similar situation was in 1991, where Mark Price played only 16 games, the team won 33 and missed the playoffs.
Sustained greatness was not enough for the Cavaliers to overcome Chicago in the early 90s.
In 1992 they were relatively healthy, won 57 games, and met the Bulls in the Conference Finals. The difference from previous meetings was that the Bulls were defending champions and was coached by Phil Jackson. Cavs gave a pretty fair fight. They won Game 2 by 26 points, which was the worst Bulls loss at home during their championship run. But athleticism and Bulls wings were too much for Cleveland and they lost the series in 6 games.
The next year, Cleveland signed Gerald Wilkins, who allegedly was the Jordan stopper. But this time Bulls completely dominated and left no chance. They swept Cavs in four games. Before the 1994 season, Mike Fratello took charge as Cavs head coach, but the result didn’t change much. Even without Michael, the Bulls swept Cleveland again. This time in three games. Scottie Pippen played brilliantly, where he averaged 25.3 points and 9.7 rebounds during the series.
After that season, this Cavs core imploded.
Brad Daugherty retired because of injuries, Larry Nance retired, and Mark Price got hurt the next year and in 1995 got traded to the Bullets. And that era for the Cavaliers ended abruptly. Even though they’ve made the playoffs a few more times after their last meeting with the Bulls, they weren’t relevant until LeBron James showed up in 2003.