Looking back at “The Shot,” Michael Jordan’s game-winning jumper in the clinching game of the Eastern Conference opening round playoff series, Craig Ehlo admits he has regret.
If he could do it over again, the former Cavaliers’ guard said he would have defended Jordan differently, and been prepared to not have help.
“That’s probably where I made my biggest mistake,” Ehlo said on The Charity Stripe podcast.
The Cavaliers knew the Bulls were going to go to Jordan at the top of the key.
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So they had forward Larry Nance up top and Ehlo closer to the 3-point line. The plan was for Nance to force Jordan towards mid-court away from the basket. But Jordan juked Nance, darting towards half-court before retreating closer to the hoop. Nance bit on the fake.
“I was kind of standing lazily, not in a great defensive position, because I thought I had somebody in front of him that was going to deny him the basketball,” Ehlo said.
Instead, Jordan caught the ball towards the right wing along the 3-point line, quickly reversed and took two dribbles until he hung the air at the free-throw line for the game-winner.
“As soon as I got to the wing, he was already dribbling back to the free-throw line,” Ehlo said. “So I wasn’t defensive sliding with him and so I was kind of running to catch up sideline to sideline.
“I get my hand up, and I think that’s why everyone thinks it was great defense. I did contest it. … As soon as I went by, he let go and had a clean look at it, and the rest is history.”
The Bulls would reach the conference finals that year and go on to win six titles in eight years between 1991 and 1998. “The Shot” still remains one of the most memorable highlights of Jordan’s immortal career.
“The fist pump is always going to be Iconic,” Ehlo said. “I guess the shot was Iconic, because it kind of propelled Chicago to that next level for them. If he misses that shot, I think the team I had in Cleveland could’ve easily won three championship like Chicago did. But it definitely gave them the boost they needed to get by and go to that next level.”
Former Cavaliers teammate Ron Harper has said he asked coach Lenny Wilkens to guard Jordan on that play, but the assignment was given to Ehlo.