The Bulls and Heat combined to score 143 points, the lowest in a playoff game since the NBA instituted the shot clock four decades ago. And after the Bulls managed a 75-68 victory last night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, the teams shared something else, too:
"Bad," said the Heat's Tim Hardaway. "It was pretty bad."
Bulls coach Phil Jackson said: "There's not much you can say about this game."
And Jordan owned up to performing well below his lofty standards. "I played like doo-doo," he said.
The Bulls and Heat are among the league's better defensive teams, and at times in Game 2, there were several defensive plays. But defense didn't explain the missed open shots, the blown layups or the sloppy play.
The Bulls shot 36 percent.
The Heat shot 34 percent.
With seven minutes left in the game, the Heat still hadn't broken 50 points.
With five minutes left, neither team had 60.
Asked if he ever played in a game like this, Heat guard Dan Majerle nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I played in Cleveland last year."
Jordan did spare the Bulls from a series split by controlling the nTC fourth quarter, when he made all 10 of his free-throw attempts and scored 14 points, helping Chicago pull away after Miami came within a point.
But Jordan waved off any credit for that. "I made some free throws down the stretch," he said. "That's it. Other than that, they did without me tonight. I didn't have any rhythm to my game. It was an ugly performance by me."
Jordan made only four of his 15 shots for his 23 points, and in the first half, was held to one measly basket. Scottie Pippen, the only consistent scorer all night, also had 23 points. Yet the Bulls didn't actually outscore the Heat; they just didn't shoot as badly.
Hardaway once again was locked up by Chicago's defense and shot only 5-for-16, scoring 15 mostly harmless points. Miami's other leading scorer, Alonzo Mourning (14 points), was effective only in spurts. For the second time in as many games, the Heat caught the Bulls on a night when they were vulnerable, and once again, it came away with nothing at the end.
"I'm going to sum it up for you," Mourning said. "They have given us so many opportunities to win, it's ridiculous. And we just haven't taken advantage of it at all. We're not executing, the shots are there but not falling."
The Bulls led by 13 in the first half, yet never had firm control of the game. Miami cut Chicago's lead to two early in the third quarter, and from there, it was anyone's game. Jordan couldn't buy a basket, and with Ike Austin getting inside for points early in the fourth, the Heat appeared ready to score an upset.
However, like Jordan, Hardaway had his problems. He never broke free for a big run, like he did several times in the New York Knicks series.
"This is a conscious effort by both teams on their leading scorers, trying to limit their looks and get them to take their shots off-balanced," Jackson said.
Midway through the fourth, Pippen recorded a pair of big blocked shots, one on Mourning and the other on Jamal Mashburn. That effectively shut down the Heat in the closing moments. And the Heat kept sending Jordan to the free-throw line, the only place where Jordan felt comfortable the entire game -- he made 15 of 16.
"How many times did he go to the line in the last five minutes?" a frustrated Mourning asked. "I think it was a lot. A whole lot. They called touch fouls, good gracious."
Everyone had a reason to complain, although the Bulls did have a reason to smile.
"You never want to look ugly in the face," Jordan said with a shrug, "but tonight I saw a win."
The fewest points scored by one team in an NBA playoff game since the 24-second shot clock was introduced for the 1954-55 season:
64 -- Portland at Utah (102), May 5, 1996
64 -- Orlando at Miami (99), April 24, 1997
67 -- Orlando vs. Chicago (86), May 25, 1996
68 -- New York at Indiana (88), May 28, 1994
68 -- Miami at Chicago (75), May 22, 1997
69 -- Indiana at Atlanta (92), May 12, 1994
Pub Date: 5/23/97