Don’t miss Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard guest bartend at the first Brews & O’s event June 10th. Get your tickets today!

Bulls' balancing act wins

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CHICAGO -- Praise for Michael Jordan usually comes for what he does on the basketball court. Yesterday, the praise was heaped on him for what he didn't do.

What Jordan didn't do for the Chicago Bulls was go ballistic, as he did on Friday, when he scored 40 points in his team's loss. Jordan turned his game down a couple of notches yesterday, and that helped the Bulls to a 106-95 win over the Orlando Magic to tie their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two games each.

Oh, Jordan did lead all scorers with 26 points, but there was plenty of help this time around. Scottie Pippen had 24 points, six rebounds and seven assists. And Toni Kukoc, who disappeared in Game 3, came through with his best game of the series with 13 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.

"It's a three-game series now," Jordan said. "Once again, Toni was key for us. We just have to go down to Orlando and be ready to play."

No, Jordan wasn't talking to reporters. He continued the silence that began after he was criticized for being the goat in the Game 1 loss. His comments yesterday were made to NBC. In fact, hardly anyone's talking -- Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal, Horace Grant and Nick Anderson and Chicago's Pippen joined the ever-growing media boycott.

Thank goodness for Bulls guard Steve Kerr, who shared his views on his team's chances going into Game 5 in Orlando tomorrow.

"Orlando has a tough crowd, but we won Game 2 there," Kerr said. "We should have won Game 1 there. We feel very confident and comfortable in Orlando."

And to win there, the Bulls will need the same balance on offense and the same active play on defense to be successful. O'Neal had 17 points and 10 rebounds, but was held in check, as he attempted just nine shots in the first three quarters. Perhaps O'Neal and Anderson were silent afterward because they didn't want to discuss their five turnovers apiece. The Magic had 20 turnovers for the game, leading to 22 points for the Bulls.

"A close basketball game like this, that's simply the difference in the game," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "We were our own worst enemy. . . . Those are the type of things a team like Chicago will exploit into fast-break points."

Those turnovers played a key role early. Orlando jumped out to a seven-point lead in the first quarter, but turned the ball over on six straight possessions. That helped the Bulls end the quarter with a 28-7 run, and Pippen's three-pointer with six seconds left gave Chicago a 34-20 lead going into the second quarter.

The amazing part of Chicago's first quarter: Jordan failed to score after scoring 18 in the first quarter Friday, when his early surge created a fast tempo that proved detrimental to the Bulls.

"We didn't talk about getting more people involved, but I think Michael took it upon himself to defer to some of the other guys," Kerr said. "Toni really got into it." Which was more than in Game 3, when Kukoc was lost.

"When everyone's involved in the game, it's much easier to play," Kukoc said. "Everyone gets the feel of the ball, and it's easier to play that way."

The Bulls, leading by as many as 16, eventually took a 59-48 halftime lead. But Orlando started the third quarter with a 19-8 run. O'Neal, Grant and Dennis Scott scored all the points in the run, with Scott's three-pointer with 5:20 left tying the game at 67.

The Magic would score just one field goal the rest of the period, and the Bulls, getting seven points from B.J. Armstrong over the last 3:02, were able to take an 80-72 lead into the final quarter.

And Jordan began to turn it on in the second half. He had eight points in each of the last two quarters. And when he wasn't scoring, he was attacking the basket and kicking the ball out to open teammates.

"I thought it was a good move by him when he decided to turn it on," Kerr said.

Orlando made a run in the fourth quarter, getting as close as 95-91 after a jumper by Scott with 2:31 left. But the Bulls were able to win and tie the best-of-seven series.

Now, it comes down to a best-of-three series.

"It's been said that the fifth game is the turning point in a seven-game series," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "The team that wins three [games] is right at the doorstep. We know we have to go down there and have confidence in our play."

The Magic came here and got exactly what it wanted -- regaining home-court advantage with Friday's win. Now, it will have to regain control of the series in Orlando.

"It's 2-2, and the pressure's probably on us because we're going back home," Magic guard Anfernee Hardaway said. "It was great to get one here. Now, we have to take care of business at home."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
79°