But Jordan first sent the game into overtime by hitting a 15-foot jump shot with 3.4 seconds left. He then scored six of his game-high 29 points, including two acrobatic layups, to give the Bulls a 104-96 victory.
"It wasn't pretty, but we persevered," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "It seems like it started a day ago. This is the longest game I can remember coaching."
The long day's journey returned the home-court advantage to the Bulls, who lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1. The next two games are scheduled here tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday night.
"We're not down, but we're definitely stunned," said Lakers forward Sam Perkins. "They capitalized on our missed free throws [16-for-25] and turnovers and beat us on the offensive boards. And when they did that, they made their second or third shots."
Still, the Lakers, led by second-year center Vlade Divac (24 points), appeared in control midway of the third quarter when they used an 18-2 run to gain a 67-54 advantage.
But even with Jordan struggling offensively, the Bulls rallied behind forwards Horace Grant (22 points, 11 rebounds), Scottie Pippen and aggressive reserve Cliff Levingston (10 points, 4 rebounds) to catch and pass the Lakers in the fourth quarter.
The capacity crowd of 17,505 then went on an emotional roller-coaster ride, with each team making pressure shots in the closing minute.
A rebounding hoop by Grant gave the Bulls a 90-87 lead with 62 seconds left. But the Lakers fought back with a driving layup by Perkins and an improbable stumbling shot in the lane by Divac, who made 11 of 15 shots. He added a free throw for a 92-90 lead with 10.9 seconds left.
In a similar pressure situation in the opening game, Jordan missed a chance to tie it. This time he drove around Byron Scott and arched a jumper over a lunging Divac that split the net. "I was very surprised that I was able to shoot that shot," said Jordan, who was nursing a sore toe he jammed in a collision with Divac. "I told John Paxson and Craig Hodges to be ready to shoot a three-pointer, but I was able to find an opening and took advantage of it."
The Lakers still had enough time for a last shot, but managed only a desperate 25-foot heave by Scott, the struggling guard, who went scoreless (0-for-8) in 43 minutes.
But it wasn't only Scott's mounting offensive problems that resulted in the Lakers' second straight loss. The younger, energetic Bulls enjoyed a 46-28 rebounding advantage. Pippen, with 13, led the way before fouling out in the final minute of regulation.
It was tied at 96 in overtime before Jordan made a spinning reserve layup with 1:40 left. That began the Bulls' decisive 8-0 run with Grant sandwiching rebounds around Jordan's two free throws.
"We beat ourselves," said Magic Johnson, who seemed bone-tired after scoring 22 points and handing out 10 assists in 50 minutes. "In the overtime, we gave them too many opportunities on the glass. Even when we played good defense, they'd get the ball back and score.
In defeat, Johnson praised Divac, who kept making clutch shots and was 11-for-15 from the field in scoring a team-high 24 points.
"Vlade played a wonderful game," said Johnson, "but I yelled at him for picking up three reach-in fouls. We need him on the floor, not the bench."
The Bulls bench also played a pivotal role, outscoring their Lakers counterparts, 18-6. None of the Lakers reserves scored more than two points.
In the end, the Lakers could not keep Jordan under wraps. He made no taunting gestures coming off the court, but losing the series edge had more of a debilitating effect.