The mighty Boston Celtics eliminated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls from the NBA playoffs tonight, winning their third straight game, 122-104.
Jordan, who scored a playoff game-record 63 points in the Bulls' second loss in Boston Sunday, scored only 19 before a sellout Chicago Stadium crowd of 18,968.
The fans had come looking for a miracle. Instead, they got a shellacking from the team that plays the best power basketball in the NBA.
Boston next meets the winner of the Atlanta Hawks-Detroit Pistons series. The Hawks lead the best-of-five series, two games to one.
The Bulls' season is over, but Chicago could never have got this far without Jordan, who barely played during the regular season but soared and scored to lead his mediocre team into the first-round playoffs as the regular season ended. Against the Celtics, Jordan scored a total of 131 points -- an NBA record for a three-game playoff set.
When Jordan fouled out with 5:24 left in the fourth period, the stadium paid joyful tribute, a throaty standing ovation of more than a minute.
Every time he touched the ball tonight, the crowd roared. But he was never a factor in this game. The cruel truth was that Boston struck early and often, double-teamed Jordan when he seemed ready to break out and controlled the game's pace from the first basket to the last.
"We picked him up full court and brought him into the traps, where we double-teamed him," Boston guard Dennis Johnson said.
Said Danny Ainge, who joined with Johnson to stop Jordan: "We forced him to give the ball up and make somebody else do something,"
Forward Kevin McHale led Boston with 31 points. For Chicago, guard John Paxson had 23 points and center Dave Corzine had 22.
Jordan, true to the selfless, all-round game he has made his own in his two years in the NBA, had nine assists and 10 rebounds.
As the Bulls' hopes of an upset died, Jordan passed off to his teammates so they could score. He finished with seven for 14 from the floor and created a genuine wave of good will in this city that equals anything earned by the Cubs, the White Sox, or perhaps even the Super Bowl champion Bears.
There was only frustration tonight for Chicago. Boston began the scoring and never relinquished the lead. By the end, the Celtics' Ainge had 20 points, Larry Bird had 19 points, Johnson 16, Robert Parish 15 and Bill Walton 10.
Chicago could not match that balanced attack.
At the end of the first quarter, Boston led by 33-23 with Jordan getting 14 points.
At halftime, Boston led by 66-52. Jordan, who did not score in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, committed his fourth personal foul with 4:21 to go and sat out the rest of the first half.
"They were prepared for me this evening," Jordan said. "It seemed like every time I got the ball, before I could make a move, they would send someone else at me. They played very good defense tonight."
Jordan's performance, fine for most nights, fell well short of unbelievable. And it would have taken that to lift his teammates this night against the dominating Celtics.
"They completely picked us apart," said Chicago Coach Stan Albeck, who was ejected late in the game for throwing a hard bounce pass to referee Ed Rush. "They burned us on each and every rotation. That, coupled with McHale's great start, really did it."
Chicago was frigid in the first quarter, shooting 37 percent (10 for 27). Meanwhile, Boston was piling up confidence, shooting 61 percent (14 for 23) in the quarter, and the Celtics followed that with 55 percent shooting (12 for 22) in the second quarter. Chicago improved to 59 percent shooting in the second quarter, but by then, it already was too late.
In the third quarter, with McHale and Bird leading the way, the Celtics built their lead to 19 points with 6:50 to go on a 14-footer by Walton from the top of the key.
A few moments later, the suspense went out of the game for good when the Bulls committed back-to-back traveling violations. Even Jordan's magic ended as he committed a turnover, losing the ball on a drive to the basket. The Celtics scored and their lead climbed to 22.
On his next three drives, Jordan missed, the Celtics continued scoring and that was that. The stadium sat back to watch Boston's awesome offense. After three periods, Boston's lead was 99-71.
There was never any hope after that.
Or after the first basket, for that matter.