LANDOVER -- Michael Jordan declared himself "in" the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain, last night and then turned in an Olympian performance in scoring a season-high 51 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 106-100 victory over the Washington Bullets before a sellout crowd of 18,756.
Jordan needed this superior effort to hold off the Bullets, who battled the defending champions on even terms for 46 minutes. But the Bulls (56-12) gained the lead for good, 98-97, on a rebounding basket by Horace Grant, and six straight points by Jordan put it out of reach. It was the Bulls' eighth straight victory.
This marked Jordan's biggest offensive night ever against the Bullets in his seven years in the NBA. His previous high was 40 points, Feb. 19, 1991. It also set a Capital Centre record for a visiting player.
Ledell Eackles led the Bullets (22-45) with 28 points.
In dominating the East the past two seasons, the Bulls have not only been very good, but also very fortunate -- having suffered few injuries.
In their 1990-91 championship season, their five starters missed a total of seven games, with Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and John Paxson appearing in every game.
It has been much the same this season. Save for center Bill Cartwright, who started the year with a fractured hand, the Bulls' starting five has remained intact.
This is in stark contrast to the Bullets, who lead the league in missed man-games (218), which includes forwards Bernard King and Mark Alarie, who have sat out the entire season following arthroscopic knee surgery in September.
With Ledell Eackles hitting his first three shots, the Bullets played the Bulls even (10-10) for the first four minutes.
Pippen, with eight points, and Jordan, with six, accounted for all of Chicago's points in moving to 14-10 lead.
David Wingate tried to occupy Jordan on the offensive end of the floor. The defensive-minded guard made three baskets to produce an 18-18 tie.
The Bullets then got their fast break in gear and surged to a 26-21 lead after one quarter. Eackles, playing aggressively on both ends of the court, had 12 points in the period. Pippen led the Bulls with 10.
Both coaches called on their benches in the second quarter. Wes Unseld got the quickest results as Washington padded its lead to 33-23 on Harvey Grant's three-point play.
But the Bulls trimmed the deficit to 37-32 at the six-minute mark and Unseld sent his starters back into the game.
Using excellent ball movement, A.J. English and Michael Adams made layups to pad the margin to 43-35. Adams continued his hot shooting, making a floater in the lane and an open jump shot and a three-pointer to provide a 12-point cushion, 50-38.
Aggressive rebounding by the Bullets led to a basket by Pervis Ellison and two free throws by Larry Stewart for a 58-43 spread. A dunk by Pippen made the score 58-46 at halftime.
The Bulls shot only 42 percent from the field (18-for-43) in the first half, while the Bullets made 53 percent of their shots (24-45). Eackles and Jordan each had 16 points.
Chicago scored the first seven points of the second half to close to 58-53 before Adams ended the Bullets' famine with a 20-footer.
A tough shot by Adams after he was fouled somehow dropped through, and his free throw increased the lead to 65-55. Jordan answered with five straight to cut the lead in half.
Chicago then began to dominate the boards, earning many second chances on the offensive end. Two free throws by Pippen off a rebound pulled the Bulls to within three points at 71-68.
Jordan began posting up his Bullets defenders. Two more baskets gave him 31 points. But it was a Pippen leaner in the lane that gave the Bulls a 76-75 edge, their first lead since early in the first quarter. The third quarter ended with Chicago ahead, 78-77. Jordan had points 15 in the period.
While the Bullets committed two straight turnovers to start the last quarter, the Bulls expanded their lead to 82-77 on a tip-in by Horace Grant.
Harvey Grant made consecutive baskets as Washington reclaimed the lead, 83-82, but Craig Hodges' baseline jumper put the visitors back on top with eight minutes left.
With Adams and Ellison taking a short rest, the Bulls moved to an88-83 lead as Jordan made a spectacular spin move on the baseline.
The Bullets kept scratching back. An open jumper by Harvey Grant and Eackles' two straight baskets put Washington ahead, 93-92, with 3.43 remaining.
The lead continued to change hands with Jordan repeatedly drawing fouls. He hit four straight free throws to put Chicago on top, 96-95. Ellison kept answering with baskets down low. But with his team trailing, 98-97, Ellison missed two foul shots as the hometown fans cheered.