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Bulls hope home cooking will help break Knicks hex Jordan, Pippen regroup for Game 3


NEW YORK -- Thus far in the Eastern Conference championship series, the Knicks have simply been the better team. And the Chicago Bulls must be wondering if they can change that.

The Knicks have shown superior depth, better offensive balance and more muscle in building a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven-game series. It is too early to write off Chicago, a proud championship team that has Michael Jordan, the game's premier player. But as the Knicks and Bulls regroup for Game 3 on Saturday afternoon at Chicago Stadium, the Knicks' confidence is bolstered by these facts:

* It has been 16 years since an NBA team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit to win a seven-game series. The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers were the last team to do it, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-2.

* Including the regular season, New York has won five of its last six games against Chicago. The Bulls have been unable to reach 100 points in any of those games, averaging just 87.8 points and shooting 39.1 percent from the field.

* New York has out-rebounded Chicago by an average of 10.1 rebounds per game this season. Charles Oakley has the same number of rebounds in this series (30) as the Bulls' entire starting front line.

* Jordan and Pippen have accounted for 57.4 percent of Chicago's points in the series. Meanwhile, all of New York's starters reached double figures in Game 2.

* Even if the Bulls tie the series by winning Games 3 and 4 in Chicago, they need at least one victory at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks (45-4) have won 27 consecutive home games.

Of course, if any player can overcome those forbidding facts, it is Jordan. But the Knicks, led by John Starks, have made Jordan look frustrated and fatigued, perhaps the most troubling fact for the Bulls as they try to protect their crown.

After a 25-point first half in Game 2, Jordan fizzled to 5-for-16 shooting in the second half and finished with 36 points on 12-for-32 shooting. This season, Jordan is shooting 36.1 percent (51 for 141) against New York. The majestic dunks, the spectacular Air Jordan moves, have been few and far between. Starks has made Jordan work for everything.

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