SEATTLE -- They had planned to have a wild victory celebration on the Key Arena floor. Then the Bulls would return back to Chicago with the NBA championship trophy in tow, looking forward to the victory parade down Michigan Avenue, and the team's fourth NBA title in the 1990s.
That championship trophy is on its way back to Chicago today -- but not on the Bulls' team plane. The reason: The Seattle SuperSonics made good on their promise not to let another team celebrate on their home floor and beat the Bulls, 89-78, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals last night.
It was the second straight loss for the Bulls -- something that happened just once during the regular season -- and closed their advantage in the best-of-seven series to 3-2. While no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA Finals series, the Sonics return to the Windy City bursting with confidence after being given up for dead just a week ago.
"We're switching the momentum. They know we're a team that can beat them now," said Gary Payton, who finished with 23 points. "We love our fans. That's why we went back on the floor to thank them. That's why we want to go back to Chicago and win this."
Two other Sonics scored over 20 points: Shawn Kemp had 22 points (with nine rebounds), and Hersey Hawkins had 21 points.
Payton did that while defending Michael Jordan, who scored 26 points.
"They count so much on Michael to score in crucial situations, and we were not letting him have the ball where he wants," Payton said. "And it's making it hard for them."
Scottie Pippen had yet another bad outing in the series, missing 14 of 19 shots on the way to 14 points. And the Bulls got little from their bench, which has been a big factor in their two loses here.
The Sonics had a 62-60 lead going into the fourth quarter, and it was still a two-point game with 8: 07 left after Pippen's layup had the Bulls within 71-69.
But the Bulls went more than five minutes without scoring. Meanwhile, the Sonics were scoring 11 straight points, and after a Hawkins layup with 4: 21 left, they had an 82-69 lead.
Chicago's drought ended when Dennis Rodman scored on a tipin. That started a 9-2 run for the Bulls that featured a three-pointer by Steve Kerr. The run ended with a free throw by Luc Longley, and the Bulls were within 84-78 with 1: 55 left.
But that was as close as Chicago got, and it was the Sonics who were celebrating as they walked off the floor.
After suffering their most lopsided loss of the year, 107-86, in Wednesday's Game 4, the Bulls had promised to return to form in their second chance to win the title. But only Jordan (17 points) and Toni Kukoc (nine points, seven rebounds) played big in the first half. Meanwhile the Sonics got 14 first-half points from Kemp, 11 from Payton and nine from Hersey Hawkins. Seattle led by as many as five in the half on the way to a 43-42 lead.
Kemp, who hit his last eight shots in Seattle's win on Wednesday, hit his first two last night -- extending his streak to 10 shots over two games. For the first eight minutes of the first quarter Kemp was all the scoring for the Sonics. He had hit four of his first eight shots, while his teammates were combining to go zero for their first 10.
However, the Bulls were not exactly pulling away in the game. Chicago twice led by six points, the latest coming after a layup by Jordan with 1: 48 left gave the Bulls an 18-12 lead.
Chicago, after hitting five of their first seven shots in the game, missed eight of their last 10 in the quarter. It didn't help that Scottie Pippen picked up two fouls.
The Sonics ended the first by scoring the final six points -- six coming from Hawkins. And with Hawkins converting a three-point play with 52 seconds left, Seattle had managed an 18-18 tie after one.
With Pippen struggling throughout the series and in the first quarter (zero points, zero rebounds, one assist), the Bulls looked to get him active offensively at the start of the second. And Pippen scored on a hook shot in the lane and a layup in the first 90 seconds.
Seattle appeared to begin feeding off the loud crowd at Key Arena, which erupted when Nate McMillan hit a three-pointer with 9: 11 left, giving the Sonics a 26-22 lead.
The importance of the game was reflected in the minutes played by McMillan in the first half. After not playing at all in Games 2 and 3 because of a sore back, McMillan played 14 minutes in the first half yesterday. Seattle led 39-34 on a layup by Detlef Schrempt with 3: 20 left.
Jordan, sensing his teammates were not in the game, kept the Bulls close. Jordan scored four points as the Bulls ran off five straight, and his layup with 2: 03 left tied the game at 39.
Eleven of Jordan's 17 points came in the second quarter, and the Bulls needed it. Pippen had just seven points, one rebound and one assist in the half. Kukoc, after a fast start, had just two points in the second quarter. And five players off the Chicago bench could produce only two points and two rebounds, which made the Bulls fortunate to be trailing by just 43-42 at the half.
Chicago vs. Seattle
(Chicago leads series, 3-2)
Day .. .. .. Site/result .. .. .. Time
Game 1 .. .. Chicago, 107-90
Game 2 .. .. Chicago, 92-88
Game 3 .. .. Chicago, 108-86
Game 4 .. .. Seattle, 107-86
Last night . Seattle, 89-78
Tomorrow ... at Chicago ... .. .. 7: 30
Wednesday* . at Chicago ... .. .. ... 9
TV: All games on chs. 11, 4
Pub Date: 6/15/96