Bulls crush Magic 86-67 triumph gives Chicago 3-0 series lead

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ORLANDO, Fla. -- After a fourth quarter in which the Orlando Magic was at a loss for making shots, it was fitting that guard Dennis Scott was nearly at a loss for words to describe how such a potent offensive team could suffer a major breakdown during such a key stretch.

"There was no feeling," Scott said. "We were just trying to figure out why the ball wasn't going in for us."

The Magic scored only two points over the first 8: 16 of the fourth quarter, went on to score the second-lowest total in playoff history and fell to the Chicago Bulls, 86-67, yesterday. The win gave Chicago a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals and put it in great position to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.

"Now if we want to win, we'll just have to do it the hard way," Orlando center Shaquille O'Neal said. "We have to go out and win four straight."

Winning four straight against the Bulls is unlikely. The Magic can barely field a team because of injuries, with Brian Shaw and Nick Anderson becoming the latest victims.

Shaw was suffering from neck spasms, and did not dress. Anderson sprained his left wrist during a fall in the fourth quarter, and had to be helped to the locker room. With Horace Grant already out with an injured left elbow, and backup power forward Jon Koncak attempting to play with an injured left knee, the Magic is a team fast approaching summer vacation.

"It's frustrating," said Orlando coach Brian Hill. "In a game with today's importance you like to have your full complement of players, but we didn't. It just makes it a little tougher."

Even if healthy, the Magic would be having a tough time, considering the way it has been playing. Even though the team suffered a disappointing defeat in Game 2 in Chicago, blowing an 18-point, third-quarter lead, the players said they were returning home with confidence.

Yesterday, the Magic established franchise playoff lows for field-goal percentage (.338), lowest free-throw percentage (.417), fewest field goals for a game (26), fewest field goals in a quarter (three, in the fourth), fewest points in a quarter (10, in the fourth), fewest field goals in a half (11, in the second) and fewest assists in a game (10).

The 67 points were the second worst in NBA playoff history, and 37 points fewer than the Magic's regular-season average of 104.5 points, which ranked third in the league.

"Guys are kind of upset, kind of embarrassed," O'Neal said.

The Bulls won despite somewhat of an off-game for Michael Jordan, who missed nine of his 14 shots en route to a 17-point game. Jordan suffered a slightly sprained left ankle in the third quarter.

Scottie Pippen picked up the slack, scoring 27 points (11 of 14 from the field), handing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds.

"Scottie carried us, especially in the third quarter," Jordan said of the period when the Bulls led by as many as 11. "I didn't support him much in the fourth quarter. I owe him one."

Again, it was Chicago's defense that left the Magic frustrated. Anfernee Hardaway, forced to play extended minutes with Shaw out, missed 16 of 24 shots and finished with 18 points and three assists. Scott missed eight of nine shots and was 1-for-7 from three-point range. O'Neal had 17 points, but he missed eight of his nine free-throw attempts and quite a few short hooks in the lane.

O'Neal has laughed when asked if his struggles have had anything to do with the defense of Luc Longley or Dennis Rodman. But Rodman said his defense has been giving O'Neal fits, and yesterday the Bulls forward rubbed it in a bit more.

"He can talk all the trash he wants to," Rodman said of O'Neal. "I think his game is totally off."

Fatigue appeared to become a factor with O'Neal and Hardaway, who have had to shoulder the load throughout the series. Both appeared bewildered at times as they lost on their xTC home court for the first time in the playoffs and just the fifth time this year.

Missing the point

The fewest points scored in an NBA playoff game (since 1954-55): 64 -- Portland at Utah (102), May 5, 1996

67 -- Orlando vs. Chicago (86), May 25, 1996

68 -- New York at Indiana (88), May 28, 1994

69 -- Indiana at Atlanta (92), May 12, 1994

70 -- Golden State vs. Los Angeles (126), April 21, 1973

70 -- Seattle at Houston (91), April 23, 1982

71 -- Syracuse vs. Fort Wayne (74) at Indianapolis, April 7, 1955

71 -- Houston vs. Boston (94), May 9, 1981

Fewest points scored in a half in an NBA playoff game:

24 -- Portland at Utah, May 5, 1996 (1st half)

27 -- Philadelphia vs. Boston, May 21, 1982 (second)

28 -- Los Angeles at Milwaukee, April 7, 1974 (first)

28 -- San Antonio vs. Portland, May 7, 1993 (second)

29 -- Orlando vs. Chicago, May 25, 1996 (second)

Pub Date: 5/26/96

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