Before the Chicago Bulls went on their quest to win three straight NBA championships during their first three-peat, they had to go through the Detroit Pistons, which was at that point a complete nightmare for them. They were famously known as ‘Bad Boys’ and were the toughest team in the NBA who used all types of tactics and antics against the opposing teams and their best players. The Pistons were back-to-back champions, and they are one of the rare teams in NBA history that can proudly say they beat Magic’s Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, and Jordan’s Bulls in a couple of years.
The Bulls heavily struggled against the Pistons, and even though Michael Jordan was the most dominant player in the NBA, he couldn’t get past the Pistons for three seasons in a row. In an interview for the Curious Leader podcat, Phil Jackson talked about what made Pistons such a great team and how he became an assistant coach with the Bulls and saw a genuine fear factor among Bulls players when they had to face the Pistons.
Every time we got into the playoffs with the Detroit Pistons, it was about their intimidation. They would intimidate the team and retaliate. Retaliation never worked. Retaliation worked if someone got thrown out, if someone got into foul trouble, Scottie Pippen got a concussion, and all these things. They had the muscle, they had the beef, and they were applying it. They would bring the game to a certain point where it became so physical that you almost had to react. So we developed this hate; maybe even fear was apart of it. Michael was never fearful, but he was getting knocked out by 2 or 3 guys, and that was just part of their defense to knock him down.Phil Jackson, via Curious Leader
The Bulls eventually matured as a team, and even though they faced failure for several seasons in a row, they didn’t let that discourage them. Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan played a significant role in the Bulls overcoming their hardship of beating the Pistons. Jordan worked on his game and further developed his body to sustain all the beating he received from the Pistons. On the other hand, Phil implemented a new playing style and strategy to enable Bulls players to be in the perfect position to score and win games. It wasn’t an easy assignment, but they succeed when they swept the Pistons in the 1991 ECF.