Blizzard 64-23 (1-7)
Scorpions 61-21 (7-1)
|Score (click for boxscore)||Game MVP||Hi Points||Hi Rebounds||Hi Assists|
|1. Scorpions 120, Blizzard 112||Michael Jordan||47 Michael Jordan||13 Mark Eaton||9 M.Cheeks/J.Battle|
|2. Blizzard 113, Scorpions 94||Karl Malone||28 Michael Jordan||15 Steve Stipanovich||5 M.Cheeks/S.Threatt|
|3. Scorpions 124, Blizzard 113||Michael Jordan||43 Michael Jordan||10 Kurt Rambis||11 Maurice Cheeks|
|4. Blizzard 134, Scorpions 131||Karl Malone||65 Michael Jordan||19 Karl Malone||13 Maurice Cheeks|
|5. Scorpions 108, Blizzard 102||Michael Jordan||39 Michael Jordan||8 Drexler/Malone/Rambis||8 Maurice Cheeks|
|6. Blizzard 126, Scorpions 90||Karl Malone||25 Joe Dumars||15 Karl Malone||9 Maurice Cheeks|
|7. Blizzard 112, Scorpions 108||Clyde Drexler||26 Clyde Drexler||11 Steve Stipanovich||13 Maurice Cheeks|
Game 1 – The West semifinals between the El Paso Scorpions and Buffalo Blizzard feature two contenders that are creating a compelling rivalry now and likely into the future, with the squads recording 61 and 60 wins respectively during this past regular season. A late-season win by El Paso over Buffalo helped the Scorpions clinch the Chamberlain Division title and first-round bye; that scenario forced the Blizzard to compete in a first-round playoff matchup and defeat a resilient Bucks County squad in a 4-1 opening series win that was hardly a cakewalk for the victors, with most of the games decided at the wire. The Scorpions (led by hall of fame greats Michael Jordan and Joe Dumars) secured the first-round bye, and the home-court advantage in this semifinals series and being in the El Paso County Coliseum served the hosts well early in Game 1. The Scorpions raced out to a 35-24 lead in the first quarter (powered by a 10-2 start). However, Buffalo fought back hard the rest of the half to grab a narrow 55-54 lead at intermission. The Blizzard were stung in the first 25 seconds of the second half when its superstar forward Karl Malone picked up his fourth foul. With Malone benched the rest of the quarter (he would ultimately foul out with 18 points), that turn of events seemed to ignite the Scorpions: El Paso capitalized with an early third-quarter run of 15-7 and then later in the period, leading just 78-76 with just under five minutes, followed up with an MJ fueled 13-2 run. When that second run was over with a minute to play in the third quarter, El Paso had built a comfortable 91-78 lead and Jordan had already scored 38 points at that stage of the contest. From there, Buffalo was unable to muster any type of real charge until the last three minutes of the game when it embarked on a 10-1 run and cut its margin down to 114-110 with 45 seconds left. But the Scorpions withstood the too-little-too-late comeback attempt with four crucial free throws converted by John Salley in the final moments, and El Paso prevailed in this opener, 120-112. As during the regular season, the Blizzard had no answers for Jordan who finished with 47 points to capture Game MVP honors. More troubling for the Blizzard was that Jordan completely dominated his rival that he relished outplaying throughout his career: Clyde Drexler was silenced to just six points in 33 minutes of play and registered five personal fouls in a dismal first-game performance. Buffalo’s top scorer was Mark Aguirre with just 19 points but that was on nine of 25 shooting from the floor. El Paso outshot Buffalo 47 percent to 42 percent from the field and converted 34 of 48 from the foul line (with Jordan making 15 of his 17 shots from the charity stripe). After Jordan, Mo Cheeks spearheaded the Scorpions with 19 points and nine assists from the point. Dumars added 17.
Game 2 – El Paso, having dominated Buffalo throughout the regular season as well as in Game 1 of these Western Semifinals, sought to put a stranglehold on this series in Game 2 at home and serve final notice to the Blizzard that the Chamberlain Division champions are a far superior team. In the first game of this series, the Scorpions wore down the Blizzard in the second half of a 120-112 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Going back to the drawing board one more time after this latest defeat, the Blizzard coaching staff tweaked both its gameplan and lineup in a desperate effort to contain Michael Jordan, who had steamrolled Buffalo through the entire regular season and then led El Paso in Game 1 with 47 points, not to mention trampling once again over beleaguered Clyde Drexler (six points by contrast in the series opener). The teams tipped off for this second contest in the El Paso County Coliseum, and the results remained pretty much the same early on: Jordan put up 11 points in the first 12 minutes and seven other Scorpion players contributed points in the first quarter as the home team grabbed the 34-32 lead headed into the second. Buffalo rallied and won the second quarter 25-20 to pull ahead by three at intermission, 57-54. But Jordan had 18 by halftime and the Scorpions, who overcame a similar halftime deficit in game 1, seemed poised to rally at home and strike down the Blizzard one more time. The script from Game 1 showed indications of flipping however, when El Paso’s tower of power Mark Eaton got cited with his fourth foul just 22 seconds into the third period (Buffalo’s Karl Malone was benched in game 1 for a fourth foul in the opening seconds). The game was tied 57-57 when Eaton exited, and Buffalo immediately capitalized with a stunning 17-2 run, only interrupted midstream by an El Paso Mo Cheeks shot from the perimeter. By the time Jordan (six points in the third) ended the run with a dunk with five minutes left in the quarter, the Blizzard had seized a 74-61 advantage; Buffalo extended that lead by the end of the quarter 90-72 as Eaton picked up a fifth foul late in the period. The Blizzard kept pace with the Scorpions in the final quarter and El Paso was never able to get closer than 16 as the Blizzard evened the series with a 113-94 victory. Buffalo was led by game MVP Karl Malone (23 points and nine rebounds) and the Blizzard contained Jordan this time to a game-high 28-points (Eaton was next highest for the Scorpions with 14, but was limited to 23 minutes due to the foul trouble). Buffalo (45 percent field goal percentage) held El Paso to under 40 percent from the field. Tom Chambers, who has been spelling starting center Bill Cartwright all season long for Buffalo, added 21 points in his reserve role and led a bench attack that outscored the Scorpions 42-28. Drexler collected 19 points, nine rebounds and a much-needed dose of confidence over his nemesis MJ as the series shifts to Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium for Game 3, all knotted at one apiece.
Game 3 – With the series tied at one game apiece, El Paso travelled to Buffalo for Game 3. The teams started off at a torrid scoring pace and there were 13 lead changes about halfway through the first quarter with Buffalo clinging to a 24-22 lead. With 4:11 left in the quarter, Bufalo held a 28-22 lead and was shooting an incredible 81% from the field against the VBA’s leading defensive club. Buffalo cooled off a little after that but after one quarter led 34-32. Michael Jordan led El Paso with 12 points while Mark Aguirre led Buffalo with 9. The second quarter was more of the same with Buffalo holding the lead for much of the time. At half time, Buffalo led 64-63. Buffalo shot 64% from the field in the first half and El Paso shot 57%. Aguirre led all scorers with 22 points while MJ had 20 for the half. The third quarter started off with El Paso fans wondering if the fix was in. El Paso was whistled for 7 fouls in the first half but was whistled for 6 fouls in the first 2:54 seconds of the quarter and 8 in the first 4:20. They were called for a total of 12 fouls in the quarter. Buffalo was whistled for 5 fouls. Luckily for El Paso, Buffalo’s shooting cooled off while El Paso’s heated up. The third quarter ended with El Paso holding a 94-88 lead. After 3, El Paso was shooting 60% from the floor and Buffalo was shooting 53%. Jordan led El Paso with 29 points and Aguirre led Buffalo with 24. The fourth quarter saw El Paso hold on to their lead and finish with a 124-113 victory. Jordan was the game MVP with 43 points. Joe Dumars chipped in with 22. Buffalo was led by Clyde Drexler’s 36 points. Aguirre had 22 points at the half but disappeared in the second half, ending the game with 24. There were 20 lead changes in the game. The teams will regroup and get ready for Game 4 with El Paso leading the series 2-1.
Game 4 – El Paso looks to take a commanding lead in the series before heading back to El Paso for Game 5. Joe Dumars hits the first shot of the game to open the scoring but the rest of the quarter is all Buffalo. The quarter ends with Buffalo holding a 40-28 lead. Buffalo shot at a 63% pace from the floor and was 10-10 from the line. Mark Aguirre led Buffalo scorers with 12 points while Michael Jordan countered with 13. The second quarter starts poorly for El Paso as they pick up a quick two fouls but they begin to play their customary strong defense and get hot from the floor. El Paso goes on a long scoring run and ties the game at 47 with 6:51 left in the half. Jordan picks up his 3rd foul with 5:01 remaining but the half ends with El Paso holding a 64-61 lead. Jordan leads the scoring with 30 points while Aguirre has 17. The third quarter sees little change as El Paso continues to hold a 3 point lead after the quarter (96-93). El Paso holds Buffalo to 40% from the floor but numerous offensive rebounds keep them in the game. Jordan has 45 points after three quarters and Aguirre has 25. Buffalo starts out strong in the 4th quarter and takes a 97-96 lead with 10:32 remaining. Jordan picks up his 5th foul with 6:23 left and Buffalo clinging to a 109-108 lead. Karl Malone gets his 5th foul with 4:59 left and Buffalo holding a 115-112 lead. The game is too important so the coaches leave Jordan and Malone in the game. With 3:08 left, El Paso has a chance to pull close as John Salley is fouled while shooting. Buffalo has a 121-118 lead at this point. Salley misses both shots and then fouls Kevin Duckworth who makes his 2 free throws leading to a 123-118 lead. That sequence spelled the end for El Paso. El Paso has to resort to pressing and fouling. El Paso can’t get closer than 3 points and loses 134-131. Jordan had an incredible, VBA Playoff record-setting, 65 points in the losing effort. Malone finished with 29 points and 19 rebounds for the winners and Aguirre added 28 points and 10 rebounds. The series heads back to El Paso tied 2-2.
Game 5 – Featuring four hall-of famers named Jordan, Dumars, Malone and Drexler (two on each side), the West Semis between the El Paso Scorpions and Buffalo Blizzard were shaping up to be a VBA post-season classic entering game five: the series was tied at 2-2 as it moved to El Paso, with each team splitting thus far on its home court. Given the high drama in every single contest (three of the four games settled by single digits), it was no surprise then that game 5 served yet another thriller (punctuated by 17 ties and 16 lead changes), a contest that again came down to the wire. El Paso held a 55-50 lead at halftime and maintained that exact edge after three quarters, 78-73, in a game where the defenses tightened up somewhat. Buffalo battled back in the final period, and following three straight points from Tom Chambers, the visiting Blizzard held a 94-93 lead with 4:40 remaining. The next two minutes however, Michael Jordan and Mo Cheeks powered the Scorpions to a 10-0 run. Jordan started the spurt with four points and Cheeks followed with two steals and scored six consecutive points to put the Scorpions ahead 103-94 with 2:41 left. For its part, the Blizzard answered with the next eight points and narrowed the deficit to 103-102 with one minute to play. From there, Jordan powered in and took flight from the charity stripe to the hoop and delivered a series-resounding dunk that extended the Scorpions lead 105-102 with 51 seconds left. On the ensuing critical possession, an alley-oop attempt from Clyde Drexler was missed by Karl Malone and helplessly traveled out of bounds. Joe Dumars followed with a Scorpions basket from the perimeter with 32 seconds remaining that padded the home team’s lead to 107-102. When a desperation three from Drexler air balled on the next possession that was all she wrote: in another dramatic contest up for grabs in the final moments – one with another decisive Jordan highlight at the end — the host Scorpions prevailed 108-102 and grabbed the 3-2 series lead as the series shifts back to Buffalo. Jordan was the MVP for the third time in this series. He finished with 39 points, 24 of those coming in the second half, and he was 15 for 19 from the foul line (El Paso converted 28 of 34 from the charity stripe). Cheeks sizzled from the point with 24 points and eight assists in 43 minutes. And Dumars and Stive Stipanovich (the latter coming off the bench) each added 14 points. El Paso outshot the Blizzard from the field 50 to 47 percent and forced an uncharacteristic 20 Blizzard turnovers. In a game where the visitors had a real opportunity to steal a victory at the end, Buffalo was hamstrung by subpar performances from all its stars. Unsung point guard John Battle actually led the team with 20 points. But Drexler managed just 12 points (four of 12 from the field), as Jordan dominated over him once again. The Buffalo front court was just as dreadful: Malone had just 15 points at power forward. Starting center Bill Cartwright only provided one point and his backup, Chambers, scored 11 points (but he offered just two of those through the first three quarters). Simply put, more was needed for Buffalo to steal this pivotal game and take command of these series. Instead, the Blizzard heads back to its home court facing elimination, along with the potential ending to the franchise’s best season by far.
Game 6 – El Paso is inept from the beginning. After 5 minutes, El Paso is being outshot 50%-17% and trails 14-8. The shooting percentages even out a bit in the remainder of the quarter but El Paso still trails by 8 after one (31-23). El Paso is led by Mo Cheeks with 5 points. MJ is a wretched 1-5 from the floor and has 4 points. Buffalo is led by Mark Aguirre with 10. The second quarter starts out well for El Paso as they take the lead 33-31 with 9:41 left in the quarter. The lead doesn’t last long as Buffalo takes a 41-39 lead with 7:17 left. At this point, Jordan is 2-10 from the floor and has 8 points. Things go from bad to worse as Jordan picks up his 3rd foul with 6:58 remaining and his 4th foul with 6:29 left. Kurt Rambis adds to the misery by getting his 4th foul with 4:50 left. The half ends with Buffalo holding a commanding 63-49 lead. Buffalo shot 48% from the floor while El Paso shot 32%. Jordan (3-14) and Mark Eaton each had 10 points and Aguirre and Karl Malone had 15 apiece. The third quarter started out with Jordan picking up his 5th foul with 11:07 left and Rambis getting his 5th with 10:36 remaining in the quarter. The third quarter was an absolute train wreck for El Paso and the quarter ended with Buffalo ahead 101-70. Buffalo shot 51% for the first three quarters while El Paso shot 33%. Jordan led El Paso with 19 points (7-23) and Malone had 21 for Buffalo. The fourth quarter was more of the same and ended with a 126-90 Buffalo victory. EL Paso shot 36% for the game while Buffalo shot 51%. Joe Dumars had 25 for the losers and Jordan added 21 (8-27). Aguirre had 21 and Malone had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the winners. On to Game 7.
Game 7 – Clyde Drexler scored 6 points in the first 4:54 and had the Blizzard up 17-6 much to the dismay of the crowd at El Paso County Coliseum. Michael Jordan & Co. said wait a minute and outscored Buffalo 25-16 the rest of the period to trail by two. Drexler finished the frame with 10; Jordan had 8. The Scorpions held Karl Malone scoreless in the 2nd quarter and drawing his 3rd personal foul as well. They rolled off 13 unanswered points early and took a 2 point lead. MJ added 11 points and Clyde the Glide 8, but it was a 67-55 El Paso lead as the teams went into their respective locker rooms. Probably the biggest event of the game happened with 11:07 to go in the 3rd. His Airness was flagged with his 4th foul and had to head to the bench. The visitors took full advantage of his absence, running off a 30-19 period with Mark Aguirre’s 11 points leading the way. Buffalo’s momentum carried over into the 4th as they scored 11 of the period’s first 17 points to go up 96-92. EPS chipped away at the lead and cut the lead to 104-103 with 2:40 on the clock. Neither team would score for the next minute with El Paso having some costly turnovers. Buffalo held on for the 112-108 win to advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the winner of the Costa Mesa-Minnesota series. Jordan was held to 22 points, but more importantly, 29 minutes of playing time. He and Malone had been game MVPs of the previous 6 games, but The Mailman would only deliver 7 points in 28 minutes due to foul trouble as well. Drexler was game MVP with a game-high 26 points. He handed out 10 dimes, had 6 rebounds and 5 takeaways as well. Aguirre finished with 21 and Bill Cartwright added 18. Mo Cheeks did his best to keep the home team in the game with 19 points and 13 assists.