Other guys do Game 3 job for Bulls Jordan stymied, but Lakers are stalled


INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- First, for the unbelievable part. The part that went beyond all NBA logic.

Michael Jordan missing in action for most of 48 minutes.

Oh sure, he played. Or at least he was out there on the Forum floor.

But the Chicago Bulls were obviously without their all-world Air. This was just ordinary oxygen, if that.

What a strange sight. Michael Jordan with only two second-half field goals going into the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. Michael Jordan shooting a measly 2-for-11 from the floor in that second half.

So when did the blowout start for the Lakers in Game 3? Wasn't it in the third quarter when they went on an 18-2 run, built a 13-point lead, and Jordan never had an answer?

The Bulls are dead steers without God's gift to basketball leading the way right? That's just an NBA given correct?

But that brings us to the other unbelievable thing of Friday night. The Lakers never grabbed this Jordan situation by the throat and strangled Chicago with it. They had that one burst in the third quarter, but the Scottie Pippens, the Cliff Levingstons, the John Paxsons and the Horace Grants refused to roll over and mourn for Michael.

The other Bulls kept the game going, whittled away at the lead and allowed Jordan one more chance for redemption.

Anybody who watched it, including 17,505 in The Forum, knew Chicago deserved to win. And in the end, thanks to Jordan, it did. In overtime, make it the Bulls by 104-96. Talk about a staggering loss for L.A.

But it was a staggered Jordan who came down for Chicago's last shot in regulation. His confidence had to be sagging, and the fatigue factor was also obvious. But as the clock ticked under 5 seconds, he juked around L.A.'s Byron Scott, then lifted a 10-foot runner over the outstretched claw of Vlade Divac.

Bingo. Jordan was finally on target, tying the score and causing overtime. Good grief, the Bulls still had a chance to win.

And in the extra five minutes, they dominated, despite the fact that Pippen had fouled out with 19 points and 13 boards.

Jordan came up with two more key baskets in OT, and, as had been the case all evening, the Bulls came up with all the rebounds and key defensive maneuvers.

Yes, Jordan was only 11-of-28 from the floor and a non-factor offensively throughout the second half. But when Chicago dominated the boards by 46-29, it allowed second-chance opportunities for points on the offensive end and only a one-shot chance for the Lakers on their end.

"We gave them too many opportunities on the glass," said a dejected Magic Johnson. "They just killed us on the offensive boards, particularly in the overtime."

And just think the Lakers were supposed to have a definite edge on the front line in this series. From rebounding to points, this was where L.A. figured to stand out while the Michael vs. Magic show was capturing the spotlight.

But with Grant and Pippen leading the way, Chicago's front line outboarded the Lakers' tall guys, 32-21.

More than anything else, however, Game 3 provided a serious emotional swing for the Bulls. Not only did the victory mean a 2-1 lead in the series, plus bring the home-court advantage back to the Bulls, but how they won was even more vital.

Maybe this team finally moved out of Jordan's immense shadow. The critics have hounded the other Bulls constantly, and even Michael has been openly critical of his teammates at times.

But what Chicago had to do Friday night was come back without Jordan being the focal point. For everyone who thought it was impossible, well, now we know otherwise.

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