CHICAGO -- There was a major breach of security for yesterday's Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals. For instead of playing the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Bulls instead faced a team pretending to be the defending conference champion.
What other logical explanation could there be for the embarrassing 121-83 drubbing the Magic suffered at the hands of the Bulls at the United Center?
Fans expected to see a court full of stars playing out a heavyweight classic. What they got instead was a lopsided display of two-on-five basketball.
"This hit us hard and hurt our pride," Orlando point guard Anfernee Hardaway said. "We are the defending Eastern Conference champions, and we played today like they were."
At least Hardaway showed up, scoring a game-high 38 points. Shaquille O'Neal also didn't get lost on the way to the arena, posting 27 points.
It was all part of Chicago's master plan: Let O'Neal and Hardaway score. But they got little help, as the Bulls shut down Horace Grant, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott. The final numbers on the other three Orlando starters: two points, zero field goals, eight rebounds, two assists.
"We can't get depressed about this; sometimes this happens," said Scott, who missed all three of his shots and had two
rebounds in 26 minutes. "We have to regroup and make adjustments."
The biggest might be how to get through tomorrow's game with the possible loss of Grant, who injured his left shoulder after a third-quarter collision with O'Neal at the defensive end. Grant had to be assisted to the locker room, leaving with no points and one rebound.
"It hurts like hell," Grant said. "I don't know if I'll play." It was the play of Grant in last year's playoffs that led the Bulls to sign Dennis Rodman, and yesterday the Chicago forward paid huge dividends. Rodman grabbed 21 rebounds in helping the Bulls to a 66-35 edge on the boards.
Rodman, while battling a stomach virus, also scored 13 and did a decent job at times guarding O'Neal.
"It doesn't make a difference how I feel," Rodman said. "I'm going to come out here and produce."
And as Rodman and the Bulls dominated the boards, the rest of the team pretty much had its way offensively. Michael Jordan had 21 points, Scottie Pippen 18 and Steve Kerr (4-for-5 on three-pointers) and Luc Longley each added 14. The Bulls began the game by scoring the first 10 points, and shot 55.2 percent for the game. The team's best shooting performance in its previous series, against the New York Knicks, was 43.9 percent.
"We were surprised," Jordan said. "The game turned lopsided, which we never anticipated. We took a very businesslike approach when we stepped on the court."
Jordan's approach didn't include shooting at every opportunity, something he seemed to do when he averaged 29.4 shots against the Knicks. Jordan took a conservative 17 shots (hitting nine), and at most times seemed content to get the rest of the team off offensively.
"Michael wanted the team to stay inside of the offense," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "He understood moving the ball would catch a lot of people off-guard. He was very pointed in telling people to keep the ball moving."
That definitely couldn't be said for the Orlando offense, with the Chicago perimeter defenders sticking to their players.
Throughout the season and the playoffs, a lot of the Orlando offense is generated by posting Hardaway and having the 6-foot-7 guard either shoot or pass over the top of smaller defenders. In guarding Hardaway with Pippen, also 6-7, the low-post aspect of the game was taken away. Thus, Hardaway had only three assists, one through the first three quarters.
"Scottie may not get the credit for guarding Hardaway because Hardaway got 38 points," Jordan said. "But what he did was get us to a point where we didn't have to double-team Shaq."
Scott, Orlando's top three-point threat, said his off-day was no fault of his own.
"I wasn't shut down. I'm spotting up and standing out there," Scott said. "If the ball goes to Shaq, I'm the spot-up man. If Shaq shoots, I'm going back on defense. There's nothing more I can do."
That's just one of the many problem areas that the Magic will have to address going into Game 2.
"It's only one game," O'Neal said. "We didn't play well, and they played great. We just need to come out with more fire next game."
Pub Date: 5/20/96