CHICAGO -- Sit back and enjoy. It appears as though the Chicago Bulls -- and we emphasize Bulls, Michael Jordan and all -- will carry their share of this loaded NBA Finals after all.
A complete team effort, badly lacking in Game 1, let the Bulls even the series at 1-1 with a resounding 107-86 victory last night over the Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Stadium.
The Bulls' domination put a new spin on the championship series, because the next three games are in Inglewood, Calif., where the Bulls simply couldn't afford to enter in an 0-2 hole.
Instead, they will enter with new confidence.
At the start of Game 2 it was Share -- not Air -- Jordan, who deferred to his teammates and they responded throughout the evening.
By the third quarter, however, Jordan's itchy fingers grew restless, and he turned it into a rout.
Jordan had 14 points in the third period and scored 23 of his 33 in the second half, at one point hitting 13 straight baskets. Overall, he made 15 of 18 shots and added 13 asssists.
"I always thought my teammates were nervous, that they would come back and be relaxed," Jordan said. "We needed this game to show the Lakers that we're a better team than what they saw before."
With the game decided, Jordan turned the fourth quarter into a personal home video. He had a vicious slam, tossed in a few jumpers, then garnished it with a jaw-dropping move -- going inside and up with the right, coming down and finishing the layup with the left.
But Jordan's theatrics aside, this was one for all the Bulls to savor. Chicago shot 61.7 percent, establishing an NBA Finals record and held the Lakers to 41 percent shooting, their playoff low.
"I thought they attacked, and we played back on our heels," Lakers guard Magic Johnson said. "They did what they had to do to get the win."
The Chicago front line collected redemption from Game 1, when it was outscored 60-31 by the Lakers' trio. The Bulls held a respectable 52-51 edge in Game 2.
Forward Horace Grant's play was especially gratifying; he feasted off inside feeds from Jordan and finished with 20 points, making 10 of 13 shots.
Guard John Paxson perfected his catch-and-shoot rhythm and provided much-needed perimeter scoring, making all eight of his shots for 16 points.
"The Bulls proved they weren't a one-man team back in December," Lakers forward James Worthy said. "If they were, they wouldn't have gotten this far."
After the Bulls assumed a five-point halftime lead, the Lakers never drew any closer.
A crucial sequence happened with the Bulls holding a 58-51 lead in the third quarter.
Scottie Pippen (20 points, 10 assists) was finishing a break when he made contact with the Lakers' Byron Scott, who was called for a flagrant foul. TV replays suggested otherwise; but, the Bulls had a four-point play on the two Pippen free throws and Bill Cartwright's dunk.
That seemed to trigger Jordan, who sensed it was OK to take over from there.
He did a few hang-gliding numbers coupled with medium-range shots, and all were punctuated with steely stares from Jordan to the nearest Laker.
By the fourth, Jordan was in such a groove that everyone just moved aside and marveled.
"He had the jumper game going," Magic said, "and then he got the feeling of being unstoppable."
Jordan didn't start as he finished, though.
Jordan took only two shots in the first quarter. Instead, he stood by and played the role of a very expensive decoy.
Now, it is the Lakers who must adjust. The Bulls took control away from Johnson, who was checked by Pippen and reserve Cliff Levingston after Jordan drew two quick fouls. Johnson scored 14 points with 10 assists and seven rebounds.
And once again, Scott was an invisible man. Scott has been saddled by few shots and the task of guarding Jordan. He took only four shots in Game 1 and scored only five points in Game 2.
"We did win one of the two games here," Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said, "and I think our team still has a lot of confidence."
Problem is, so do the Bulls.