CHICAGO -- Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the Phoenix Suns' triple-overtime victory over Chicago in Game 3 of the NBA Finals was that the hometown Bulls attempted only nine free throws in the 63-minute marathon.
Even more surprising is that the Bulls did not scream "foul!" against the officiating crew of Darell Garretson, Mike Mathis and Dick Bavetta. The Suns converted 22 of 31 free-throw attempts; the Bulls were 6-for-9.
Said Michael Jordan, who took only six free throws despite attempting 43 shots from the field: "I think everybody would admit there was more than nine fouls out there. There was a lot of slapping and elbowing, but I certainly don't want to get fined for rapping the officials.
"Even though we didn't get to the line, we had a lot of opportunities to win," he added. "We can't dictate the calls. You have to play above that, and we didn't."
A man far more critical of the officiating was former NBA referee Earl Strom, who has been writing a daily column during the championship series for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Strom, a longtime needler of Garretson, now the league's head referee, said, "When Garretson works, the other referees are so intimidated, they fall in line."
Strom cited a couple of significant non-calls during the 3-hour, 20-minute game.
"Charles Barkley got the ball, bangs Horace Grant out of bounds, makes the basket, and Grant gets the call," Strom said. "And poor Jordan. On one shot, he got hit on the elbow, and Garretson was looking right at him. Jordan really went after him. Believe me, if Garretson thought he had made the right call, Jordan would have drawn a technical."
Barkley, who needed to get his right elbow drained of fluid to play in Game 3, went out and contributed 24 points and 19 rebounds in 53 minutes. He said the elbow was still sore yesterday.
"When I went out there Sunday, I didn't know what to expect," Barkley said. "All I knew I could do was rebound. I'm not even going to shoot a ball for a couple days, and I'm not playing golf with Michael today. He's probably got to ice his elbow, too, after taking 43 shots."
L Suns coach Paul Westphal applauded Barkley for playing hurt.
"He's playing on his heart, and his heart is amazing," Westphal said. "I know the elbow bothered him a lot, but he wasn't going to stay out of this game. He had a lot of fluid in there, and if you have fluid in your joints, you know how painful it is when you move. Charles wasn't at his best, but he was good enough."
Said Phoenix team doctor Richard Emerson: "If this were the regular season, we'd give Charles a couple of games off. But you can't do that in this situation. His restrictions will be his own comfort level."
Calling long distance
The Suns burned the Bulls Sunday by hitting nine of 13 three-point shots, with Dan Majerle hitting a championship-series record six.
"I got a few good looks early in transition," said Majerle. "The Bulls seemed confused, ran to cover Kevin [Johnson] and left me free. Then I started feeling it. It was the kind of game where you let it all hang out."
Bulls defensive guru Johnny Bach credited the effective penetration of Johnson with opening up the Suns' perimeter game.
Cramping his style
Bulls forward Scottie Pippen, a big contributor to the Bulls' two victories in Phoenix, barely missed a second straight triple-double in Game 3. He finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
But the All-Star forward, experiencing leg problems, had obvious difficulties shooting the ball. He missed 23 of his 35 shots and tossed up several air balls.
"That's never happened to me before," said Pippen. "My legs started tightening up, and it really took its toll in overtime [he scored two points]. I didn't drink enough fluids, but I've learned -- from it."