CHICAGO -- For Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, there was little reason to be happy about the way he played in last night's Game 2 of the NBA Finals. There was little reason to be happy about the way the team played against the Seattle SuperSonics.
"We're playing passive," Jordan said. "And we can't do that."
Yet, on a night when the Bulls' offense stalled and the team shot just 39 percent from the field, the team dominated the offensive boards -- led by a record-tying performance by Dennis Rodman -- on the way to a 92-88 win over the Sonics.
It wasn't the blowout of Game 1, but nevertheless the Bulls have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that shifts to Seattle for Game 3 tomorrow.
"I don't think anyone expected a cakewalk against a team with the second-best record in the league," Jordan said. "It's going to be a grind and a fight. We're very fortunate. They pushed us hard here at home, but the outcome is that we defended our home court."
Jordan scored 29 points to lead the Bulls, but struggled as he hit just nine of 22 shots. He also had eight assists and six rebounds. Scottie Pippen scored 21 points. But the story of the game was Rodman.
The 6-foot-8 forward grabbed 20 rebounds. Eleven of them were on the offensive boards, tying the NBA Finals record set by Washington Bullets forward Elvin Hayes in 1979. Rodman had seven offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone, when the game went from close to an 11-point Chicago lead going into the final quarter.
Rodman even drew praise from Sonics coach George Karl, who the day before the game criticized Rodman for his antics. That criticism led Rodman to approach Karl before the game. Karl wouldn't share what was said in that conversation, but he did recognize Rodman's effort last night.
"He had a hell of a game and he was probably their MVP," Karl said. "His offensive rebounds hurt us. A lot of possessions, had we gotten them, we could have got the momentum in the game."
None of the boards was bigger than one that came with eight seconds left and the Bulls clinging to a 91-88 lead. Pippen was on the line with a chance to ice the game, but missed both of his free throws. Rodman grabbed the rebound after the second miss, then was tied up by Sam Perkins for a jump ball. Rodman won the tap, eventually was fouled with three seconds left and hit one of two free throws to seal the game.
"Rodman's offensive rebounds at the end killed us," Seattle forward Detlef Schrempf said. "We just gave up too many offensive rebounds to Rodman and he kept them in the game."
It was necessary, because the Bulls did not score a field goal over the final 6: 15. Their last basket came when Toni Kukoc grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a layup to give the Bulls an 84-76 lead. The rest of Chicago's scoring came from the free-throw line, where they hit just eight of 16 in the fourth.
"I thought we lost some energy in the fourth. We had some tough shots," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "They gave us a good run."
For the Bulls, the key was the third quarter. As late as the 3: 45 mark of the period the Sonics were within 63-62, that coming after two free throws by Perkins.
Then Pippen hit a free throw, and Rodman scored on a tip. That was followed by consecutive three-pointers by Toni Kukoc, the hero of Game 1 when he scored 18 points -- 12 in the decisive fourth quarter. Until hitting his two three-pointers, Kukoc had missed his first four shots in a performance that led to a stern lecture from Jordan.
"Toni was real passive, so I pulled him aside and said, 'Are you scared, because if you are scared, then sit down,' " Jordan said.
Kukoc wound up scoring eight of Chicago's points during the 10-1 run over the final 2: 30 of the third that had the Bulls seemingly in command, 76-65, going into the final period.
The Sonics did make it a game, and that has to have the team taking some confidence onto its home floor. Seattle, with 64 wins over the regular season, has not lost three straight at any time this year.
"We know we can beat them," Schrempf said. "We wanted to steal one here, and didn't."
For the second game in a row the Sonics were led in scoring by Shawn Kemp, who scored 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. For the second game in a row all-star point guard Gary Payton struggled, missing nine of 15 shots on the way to a 13-point, three-assist performance.
"Gary's fine," Karl said. "He's not getting the good looks we usually get him. But he's getting a lot of attention also. He's got great defenders [Jordan, Pippen and Ron Harper at times] on him."
NBA Finals Chicago vs. Seattle
(Chicago leads series, 2-0)
Day .. Site/result Time
Game 1 Chicago, 107-90
Game 2 Chicago, 92-88
Tomorrow at Sea. (+2) 7: 30
Wed. at Seattle 9
Friday* at Seattle 9
June 16* at Chicago 7: 30
June 19* at Chicago 9
TV: All games on chs. 11, 4
Going to the glass
A list of the most offensive rebounds in a game by an individual in the NBA Finals:
11 -- Dennis Rodman, Chicago vs. Seattle, June 7, 1996.
11 -- Elvin Hayes, Washington at Seattle, May 27, 1979.
10 -- Marvin Webster, Seattle vs. Washington, June 7, 1978.
10 -- Robert Reid, Houston vs. Boston, May 10, 1981.
10 -- Moses Malone, Houston vs. Boston, May 14, 1981.
Pub Date: 6/09/96