CHICAGO -- Sam Perkins contradicted both Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy and team captain Magic Johnson over the strategy surrounding his game-winning three-point shot with 14 seconds left in a 93-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls yesterday.
But why quibble over a classic ending to a brilliantly played basketball game?
Perkins' execution was perfect, and the result gave the Lakers a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, stealing the home-court advantage from the Bulls, who had won their previous 15 playoff games at Chicago Stadium.
The home-court streak ended after Michael Jordan had missed an 18-foot jump shot with five seconds left.
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday night here, with the series shifting to the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., for the next three games.
"I'd like to say I designed the winning three-point play, but I didn't," said Dunleavy, recalling the sideline discussion with 24 seconds left and his team trailing, 91-89.
"But Sam has the green light to take that shot," Dunleavy said. "He's been making that shot consistently all season. The Bulls were doing a good job of double-teaming Magic and forcing him to give up the ball.
"Earlier in the game, we weren't getting good floor spacing. This time, we got it. You want to play for the win on the road and the tie at home, and this time it worked great."
Johnson said: "We hadn't been reading the Bulls' double-teams well. I was upset, and so was Mike [Dunleavy]. But this time [Bulls center Bill] Cartwright left Perkins early to run at me. Sam wasn't necessarily looking for the three. He just spotted up and made it."
Standing just behind the three-point line, the veteran forward from North Carolina never hesitated. With Bulls forward Horace Grant charging at him, Perkins unleashed the ball in a high arc, and it went through the nets, silencing the crowd of 18,676.
"It was drawn up in the huddle just like it happened," said Perkins, who scored six of the Lakers' last seven points. Advised that Dunleavy and Johnson had said otherwise, Perkins smiled and said, "Well, at least I thought we planned it that way."
You might also think the Bulls had planned the frantic finish, putting the ball in Jordan's hands in a win-or-lose situation.
In the last seconds, Jordan had two opportunities to do what he does better than anyone else in the league.
First, the NBA's Most Valuable Player tried the baseline, but found his path blocked by several taller defenders. He got a break, however, when his pass bounced off a Laker's foot out of bounds with nine seconds left.
After a final timeout, Jordan momentarily broke loose from a stumbling Perkins and took an 18-footer, a shot he usually makes with regularity. It hung tantalizingly on the rim before dropping off.
The Bulls were then forced to foul Lakers guard Byron Scott, who made one of two free throws. But with no timeouts remaining for the Bulls, Scottie Pippen's half-court heave missed.
The classic confrontation between the league's two premier superstars lived up to its billing. Johnson, who did not score a field goal in the first 30 minutes, finished with his 29th career triple double in the playoffs -- 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Jordan scored a game-high 36 to go with 12 assists and eight rebounds. He ignited a 10-0 run by the Bulls in the fourth quarter to produce a 78-75 lead, but could not make the crucial shot.
That was left to Perkins, a former teammate of Jordan's at North Carolina who was reunited in Los Angeles with another Tar Heel, James Worthy, after a $3 million-a-year contract coaxed him to leave the Dallas Mavericks.
With the Mavericks, Perkins had been saddled with the reputation of being a soft player, interested only in his individual statistics.
But Perkins has gone a long way toward convincing his critics and the Lakers that he is a big-time player. He has averaged 18.7 points and 8.2 points in the playoffs and scored a game-high 26 points in the Western Conference clincher against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"Yeah, I've head about being soft, but I don't pay attention to those things," Perkins said. "I don't try to be flashy or spectacular. I just stick to fundamentals and play a complementary role on this team. But now I've finally got a chance at a championship ring, and I couldn't be happier with the way things are going."
There were many breathtaking plays leading to Perkins' winning shot. The Bulls seemed to have captured the momentum early in the fourth quarter in gaining a 78-75 advantage with eight minutes left.
But when both Jordan and Pippen, who represent more than 50 percent of the Bulls' scoring, picked up their fifth personals, it cramped coach Phil Jackson's traping defense, which was instrumental in the four-game sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals.
"It affected my game both ways," said Jordan. "You just can't be as aggressive on either end of the floor. It makes you play conservatively."