ORLANDO -- When the Orlando Magic lost the home-court advantage in Game 2 here, Shaquille O'Neal was hacked so much that he requested the assistance of wrestler Hulk Hogan. Well, Hogan sat courtside wearing an O'Neal jersey during last night's game, but his assistance was not needed.
That's because O'Neal and the Magic got all the help they needed from shooting guard Dennis Scott, who in the third quarter helped jump start a stagnant offense and led Orlando to a 103-95 win over the Chicago Bulls before a sellout crowd off 16,010 at the Orlando Arena.
The Magic called the game the biggest in franchise history beforehand, and played up to the challenge in overcoming a seven-point halftime deficit in taking a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Bulls will try to even the series tomorrow night in Chicago.
"We're going in for the kill," said Horace Grant, who led the Magic with 24 points. "Any time you have a team own 3-2, you have to go for the kill."
Grant and Scott helped turn the tide. Scott scored nine points in the third quarter when Orlando outscored Chicago, 35-20. His perimeter shooting helped open up the inside game, and helped the Magic move within one win of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals.
"I felt this was a gut check for us," said Orlando coach Brian Hill. "I was very happy with the way they responded in the third and fourth quarters."
Michael Jordan scored 39 points to lead the Bulls. But in this series, as Toni Kukoc goes, so goes the Bulls. Last night Kukoc scored five points, hitting two of six shots. It didn't help Chicago that Scottie Pippen also disappeared, scoring just 10 points on four of 13 shooting.
After leading by as many as 12 in the first half, the Bulls found themselves trailing, 78-70, going into the final quarter. A jumper by Jordan early in the fourth quarter pulled the Bulls to within two points, but after that Chicago was unable to mount any type of serious run.
Going into the game there was some question as to which team was under more pressure: the Bulls, because of their veteran leadership, or the Magic, who regained home-court advantage and simply had to win at home to advance.
Well, it was the Magic that played tight in the first half. Orlando missed its first nine shots, and wound up hitting just 14 of 48 shots from the field in the first half (31.3 percent). And despite that the Magic was able to go into halftime trailing just 50-43.
The Magic managed to stay that close despite a horrendous first half by O'Neal, who had eight points and 16 rebounds. O'Neal was just two of 12 from the field, missed his first six free throws (he finished four of 10 from the line in the half), and committed three first-half fouls. Anfernee Hardaway, quiet throughout the series, scored eight points and had five assists but was just four of 10 from the field and limped off the court with 1:29 left in the half.
"Even though we played like horse manure, we were still only down by seven," O'Neal said. "That's what good about a good team. If the main guys aren't going, others pick up the slack."
It was a poor start for the Magic, which started the game with both O'Neal and Grant missing wide open layups on the way to eight straight misses. In a game that was physical from the start, only a slow start by the Bulls kept Orlando from getting blown out. While Orlando was misfiring, the Bulls were only able to take an 8-2 lead.
The Magic finally got a field goal when Grant hit a short jumper with 8:24 left. And Orlando got within 12-9 after a three-pointer by Scott with 6:55 left. But the Bulls, getting 12 points from Jordan and nine from B.J. Armstrong in the quarter, led by as many as seven. Still by quarter's end the Bulls lead was a slim 29-25.
Chicago opened the second quarter with a 16-8 run, the last six coming from Pippen. In the second quarter, the Bulls quickly increased their lead to 37-27 after a short jumper in the lane by Jordan with 7:55 left.
The biggest lead would be 12, after a layup by Bill Wennington made it 47-35 with 3:03 left. But over the rest of the quarter Orlando outscored Chicago, 8-3.
Orlando finally got hot in the third, hitting seven of its first eight shots. That hot shooting helped the Magic to a 21-10 run, which ended with a jumper by Grant that gave the Orlando a 64-60 lead with 6:59 left.
The Magic led the rest of the quarter, helped by the perimeter shooting of Scott who scored nine points in the quarter and had two of Orlando's three three-pointers. Orlando led by as many as 78-69 after a three-pointer by Hardaway with 15 seconds left.