Majerle recharges Suns batteries with a barrage of three-pointers


CHICAGO -- Dan Majerle was playing in the Central Tim Zone last night, but just barely. He was Phoenix's long-distance man just when the Suns needed him most.

Majerle was a record-setting six of eight from three-point land in Phoenix's 129-121 triple-overtime victory over the Bulls in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The biggest of them came in the third overtime when, with the Suns losing 118-116, Majerle struck from beyond the stripe to give Phoenix a one-point lead.

Majerle's shot, though, was worth even more. It gave the Suns a boost of energy just when they needed it most. The Bulls never recovered.

Majerle's six three-pointers tied a finals record, also owned by Michael Jordan, former Los Angeles Laker Michael Cooper and Detroit bad boy Bill Laimbeer. More importantly, it gave Phoenix some hope that it can return home.

"This Phoenix team always steps up to play," said Majerle, who had 28 points.

It was Majerle who stepped up all game. During the third quarter, the Bulls opened an 83-78 lead with one minute remaining, and seemed on the verge of launching the blowout. But Majerle delivered not one, but two quick three-pointers, and suddenly the Suns had a one-point lead and some momentum going into the fourth quarter.

Another Majerle three-pointer gave Phoenix its biggest lead, 101-90, with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in regulation play.

For Majerle, it was a matter of one three-pointer building on another.

"When you hit one shot, it makes things easier," Majerle said. "You start getting confidence when you're hitting out there. You get a good rhythm. And you go with it."

Majerle's shots went farther than most. His back-breaker in overtime was three or four steps beyond the three-point line.

"He gets into a zone," Phoenix coach Paul Westphal said. "It doesn't matter how deep it is. I've seen him shoot 10 feet beyond the line. Sometimes, that's better for him, because he's so strong."

"I feel pretty comfortable from out there," Majerle said. "They know I don't pass up that shot too much. In that type of game, you like to be out there and hit that kind of shot."

Majerle also benefited from Kevin Johnson guarding Jordan. It helped Majerle from being worn down, and it enabled him to get into an offensive groove.

"It helps when Kevin does that," Majerle said. "It takes some of the heat off me. Kevin did a fantastic job."

As did the rest of the Suns, who had to pick up the slack for Charles Barkley. Richard Dumas hit 17 points, 15 in the first half. Tom Chambers added 12 off the bench, and center Mark West had 11.

"Charles has been the man, and he usually steps up and does the job," Majerle said. "But we have other people who can do the job. We've been confident all year long."

The confidence, though, waned after the first two games. But, it was back last night. Enough for Majerle to think about bringing the series back to Phoenix, where it would go for Games 6 and 7.

"We're still down 1-2, and they still could put us away here," Majerle said. "But if we can get it back to Phoenix, I think we'll be in good shape. The pressure is on us, but if any team can, this team can."

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