CHICAGO — Well, soap opera fans, let’s begin with the moment you all were waiting for: Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas actually touching each other for the first time since last year’s nasty playoff finale. It’s true! I saw it! Just before game time Tuesday night, they shook hands at center court, and exchanged a few words. One can only imagine:

ISIAH: Hi, Mike. I hear Barcelona water gives you diarrhea.

JORDAN: Is there someone talking? I don’t see anyone talking. . . .

Actually, what they really said was: “Have a good game, man,” which, put into regular talk, means, “May you drop dead in toxic waste.”

And with that, the rematch began.

Unfortunately for Detroit, that handshake was as close as the Pistons would come to His Airness and the Chicago Book Of The Month Club Tuesday night. By the third quarter, Jordan would be cooling his toes on the bench, resting up for tomorrow’s full day of endorsements and rumor denials, his Bulls so far ahead, they were in a different ZIP code. And the Pistons? They would be playing Lance Blanks and Charles Thomas and wondering what happened to the great game everyone was predicting.

Let’s examine what happened. Ready?

Detroit couldn’t make a shot.

Any questions?

Can’t hit the century mark

“Defense was all right, rebounding was all right, offense was a big problem,” said Chuck Daly, after watching his team miss basket after basket and get stuffed by the world champs, 110-93. “An old coach used to say, ‘You gotta be able to score 100 points,’ and right now, given our people, even moving the ball around, I’m not sure we could do that.”

Hmm. That does not say much for Jack McCloskey, the GM, who supposedly revamped this team over the summer to score more points and better compete with athletic teams such as the Bulls. Did Jack make a mistake?

More on that in a minute. Right now, soap opera fans, I know what you want. You want to hear about . . . The Fight!

Actually, it was more like The Shove, which it always is in the NBA. It began in the frantic third quarter, with Bill Laimbeer — Laimbeer? I am shocked! — planting himself on a Chicago fast break as Horace Grant came right at him. Bang! They collided and fell to the court, their legs tangled, and Laimbeer rose with a loose swing at the air (that, by the way, is as close as Laimbeer ever comes to a real punch). Meanwhile, Grant — sensing that Laimbeer might do some real damage, like break his goggles — jumped up and ran to the Bulls’ bench as if he’d just seen the ghost of Jimmy Hoffa.

Scottie Pippen, seeing Grant so scared, came flying in and got tangled with Isiah Thomas, who pushed him off. Joe Dumars jumped in to stop Pippen, who was going after Isiah, then Jordan jumped in to stop Dumars, but got caught up with John Salley, who was trying to figure where Hammer was sitting, so he could tell him about this new group he’s found.

Meanwhile, Isiah had been yanked away by referee Luis Grillo, who was grabbing him now, pushing him back, and making the big “T” sign — and we don’t mean “terrific” — and this made Isiah rush and grab him again, which caused Daly, Brendan Malone and Mike Abdenour to come running out, Abdenour, the trainer, no doubt there to distribute ice to injured players or anyone who wanted a cool drink. Cool drink? Did someone say cool drink? Suddenly both benches cleared, while the crowd amused itself with cheers of “DETROIT SUCKS!” then “LAIMBEER SUCKS!” and back to the old favorite: “DETROIT SUCKS!”

And next thing you knew, Chicago was up by 22.

So all in all, it was a pretty average night in the Pistons-Bulls series. Except for one thing: These games are supposed to be close.

Hammer has the answer

“Given the fact that McCloskey revamped the team to compete with the Bulls, what did you think of how your ‘new’ team stacked up?” Daly was asked.

He bit his lip, rolled his eyes, and said, very diplomatically: “It is my job as coach to try to find players to score.”

He forced a grin. You can figure it out.

Meanwhile, in the locker room, the Pistons took the loss in stride. Dumars
(1-for-11 shooting) said they were “in the game until the third quarter,” when the Bulls jumped from three points up to 22 points up. And Laimbeer said,
“We’re just not playing well offensively right now.”

When your leading scorer is Dennis Rodman (20 points), I think that’s a fair assessment.

Time out! Hammer said, and I quote: “It’s only one game, baby. Heh-heh. Hammer time!”

Observation on the Bulls: They played tremendous defense and seemed to have three players on every Piston who threatened to shoot.

Observation on the Pistons: If they have to rely on William Bedford all year, they’re dead.

As to “The Fight”?

Said Grant: “Detroit hasn’t changed a bit.”

Said Laimbeer: “I didn’t do anything.”

So everything’s back to normal. By the way, no one shook hands after this game except Detroit’s Darrell Walker and Chicago’s Rory Sparrow, neither of whom was with these teams last year.

Don’t worry. They’ll learn.

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