June 06, 1991 By Sam Smith.
Jordan & Co. Roar Back To Even Series
They sparkled like the sun glinting off Lake Michigan and were as sweet as icing on a birthday cake. The Bulls, in a glorious party in the Stadium, evened the NBA Finals at 1-1 Wednesday night by blowing out the Los Angeles Lakers 107-86 in a brilliant all-around team performance. “Everyone contributed,“ said Michael Jordan, who contributed the most with 33 points and 13 assists, hitting a remarkable 15 of 18 shots. “I was surprised we won by the margin we did. But we reverted to what we had been doing the 12 (playoff) games before Game 1. We picked up our defensive intensity and got everyone involved.“ The Bulls set an all-time NBA playoff shooting record at 61.7 percent. Horace Grant, overshadowed by Sam Perkins in Game 1, slipped inside for 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting while Perkins bobbed along for a meaningless 11. The Lakers were led by James Worthy`s 24. John Paxson, often overlooked in Game 1, took advantage of every look he got at the basket, knocking in all eight of his shots for 16 points. He combined with Jordan for a 10-for-10 third quarter when the Bulls took control by outscoring the Lakers 38-26. “I told John,“ said Jordan, “that if we were going to go down, there shouldn`t be any bullets in his holster. He had to keep shooting.“ And the Bulls got a big-time shot in the arm from Scottie Pippen on defense as he pressured Magic Johnson up court, making it harder for the Lakers to get into their offense. Johnson was held to 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting and had 10 assists. Pippen also scored 20 points and added 10 assists in an exceptional all-around effort. “I just tried to defend full court amd make him work hard and try to wear him down,“ said Pippen.
The Bulls go to Los Angeles for the next three games, starting Friday. “It`s a relief to get back even,“ said Jordan, “so now we`ve just got to focus on Game 3.“ Grant donned his prescription goggles again, and that wasn`t the only new look the Bulls had in Game 2. After the Lakers opened the game with a 9-6 lead as Johnson found Vlade Divac inside with a pair of bullet passes, the Bulls began making things much harder for the Lakers with an aggressive, helping, emotional defense that disrupted the Lakers` post-up game and deliberate offense. With Grant helping Pippen on Worthy and Pippen then challenging Johnson one-on-one defensively later after Jordan picked up his second foul of the first quarter, the Bulls succeeded in taking the defensive advantage they surrendered in Game 1. And Grant, who had just six points in Game 1, slipped inside consistently for passes from Jordan and scored 10 first-quarter points as the Bulls took a 28-23 lead after one. “The goggles did make things clearer,“ said Grant. The Bulls scored eight straight points after the Lakers had taken that early lead, were tied at 18 after a Worthy three-pointer, then scored eight straight again, four by Grant, to restablish control. For the Lakers, Perkins, the Game 1 star, drew two early fouls and played little in the first quarter, and Bulls coach Phil Jackson moved Cliff Levingston in early for Paxson to counter the Lakers` size advantage. The Bulls shot 65 percent in the first quarter, with Grant and Bill Cartwright combining to hit nine of 11 shots. They cooled off to open the second quarter, missing five of their first six shots, and the Lakers pulled within 30-29. L.A. then took a 37-36 lead with just under five minutes left in the half. But Jordan, who`d been quiet with just two first-quarter points, awoke to score eight straight for the Bulls. Jordan, often blocked by a collapsing Lakers zone, split a seam in the defense for a basket and then slammed on a drive after another Lakers turnover to give the Bulls a 40-37 lead with 3:14 left in the half. The Bulls kept Pippen tight on Johnson in an aggressive upcourt defense to make it difficult for Johnson to find open teammates.
Worthy hit a jumper coming out of a Laker timeout, but Jordan responded with a jumper and then another driving basket. Perkins, loosening up from outside, hit a three-pointer to bring L.A. within one with just over a minute left. But Paxson hit from the left corner, and after Perkins pulled up and missed as Cartwright denied him post position, Jordan found Grant underneath for a slam. That made it 14 points for Grant, who led all scorers for the half, and put the Bulls up 48-43 at halftime. Then they got the Lakers in their sights and began bombing away. Paxson hit three jumpers, Jordan hit four, and Pippen was involved in the turnaround play of the third quarter. With the Bulls ahead 58-51, Worthy committed a turnover and Pippen slashed ahead of the pack and was fouled hard going to the basket by Byron Scott. A flagrant foul was called. Pippen hit the two free throws, the Bulls retained possession, and Cartwright slammed on a pass from Paxson. It was now 62-51, and the Bulls were off and running, shooting and pressuring the Lakers into a 86-69 third-quarter hole. They hit their next eight shots on the way to an 85 percent quarter (17 for 20).


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