This team won't be Bull-ied Commentary

May 07, 1991|By Bill Lyon | Bill Lyon,Knight-Ridder

CHICAGO -- In Chicago Stadium, a seedy and compelling argument for urban renewal, the teams must submerge to find their locker rooms, much like going down into the sewers of Paris.

And when the Philadelphia 76ers came up from their cellar nest last night for Game 2 of their playoff scrum with the Chicago Bulls, they had the appropriate fang-bared, molten-eyed look of sewer rats.

Rick Mahorn, most menacing scowl in place, looked quite capable of giving someone rabies. Hersey Hawkins, by nature a man of placid temperament, looked like a wanted poster. Charles Barkley had the look of a man whose last meal had been a gastronomic disaster.

The Sixers, clearly, were primed to eradicate the indignities that had been visited upon them in Saturday's series opener. They had been found guilty, by Barkley and by their indifferent performance, of simply mailing in that game.

So in the first five minutes last night, the Sixers went through their entire motivational repertoire.

Mahorn slung Bill Cartwright to the floor. Flagrant foul, tweeted referee Darell Garretson. Undeterred, Mahorn sent Horace Grant sprawling. Cartwright stuck an elbow into Mahorn's gizzard. Glare followed shove. Threatening steps toward each other. Quick intervention by the striped shirts.

Hawkins slashed to the basket, recklessly, repeatedly, and each sortie was down a gauntlet of welt-raising hacks. More bodies pinwheeling. Elbow to the sternum. Knee to the really tender place. Hip check. Wait, that's hockey.

Barkley drew a technical foul. On purpose. It sets his juices simmering.

This is how the Sixers rev themselves. Like a boxer slapping himself upside the head. They need, or at least they feel they need, to work themselves into the appropriate froth before they can give their best effort.

Well, they trotted it all out last night. Fired every emotional bullet they had.

And it bought them all of one quarter. The first.

They played as hard as Barkley had said they hadn't, and they got a 33-33 stalemate for 12 minutes.

And then they lost, 112-100.

All of which, logic suggests, might lead you to conclude that the Bulls are simply better.

Which leaves the Sixers grievously short on options.

Their last remaining edge would appear to be home, and all the accompanying benefits. Conveniently, that is where the series now goes.

And the Sixers, while only halfway to elimination, best wring all they can from the Spectrum, because the Bulls are absolute mortal locks in their place. On the floor above the sewers of Paris, they have now won 12 straight playoff games.

Strong medicine.

They have shrugged off the Sixers' best bullying efforts. But that is all the Sixers have left, making it physical. They certainly cannot run with the Bulls. That is as deadly as running with the bulls in Pamplona.

The only solace from last night is that someone finally hit a hundred against Chicago. First time in five playoff games. The Bulls haven't really had a fourth quarter yet. Or needed one.

But even then there was no sense they were going to leave the sewers of Paris any better than 0 and 2. That is because the Bulls have Michael Jordan, and E.T. still has not needed to exert himself. He was content with an easy-running 29-point, nine-assist, eight-rebound evening.

To quote Barkley after the Sixers had swept Milwaukee: "I'll take speed over power every time."

That matchup holds in this series, but now the Sixers are the ones stuck with the power...and slowness.

There aren't any strategical mysteries here.

A man observed to coach Jim Lynam: "They look taller, quicker and faster than you."

To which Lynam, standing in the sewers of Paris, smiled wryly and said: "Other than that . . . "


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