Confidence in air for Bulls after Jordan's 54-point roll Knicks hope to find success back in N.Y.

June 02, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Before heading east for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden tonight, Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant said he might make a slight detour to the gambling dens in Atlantic City.

It was Grant's tongue-in-cheek suggestion that perhaps some of teammate Michael Jordan's luck might rub off on him.

Actually, Jordan, when he was still talking to the media, admitted to dropping several thousand dollars at the blackjack table a week ago Monday.

But Monday at Chicago Stadium, Jordan left nothing to chance, firing home shot after shot in a spectacular 54-point performance that led the defending champion Bulls to a 105-95 victory. It evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2 and proved again Jordan is strictly a winner on the basketball court.

Designing ways of keeping Jordan closer to his league-leading scoring average of 32.6 points is the primary concern of the Knicks.

In the first three games, the Bulls' superstar shot only 32 percent from the field. But he converted 18 of 30 shots in Game 4, including a string of eight straight, leaving Knicks defenders in awe.

"He just flat-out kicked my butt," said John Starks, who scored 24 points for the losers. "He was knocking down his jump shots, he was hitting his threes, even though I was right in his face."

Actually, Starks did an excellent job of preventing Jordan from attacking the basket. Of his 18 field goals, only one was a layup.

"He was just in a zone, hitting all those long-range jumpers," said Knicks power forward Charles Oakley. "When I played with him in Chicago, almost all of his points were layups."

There is speculation that veteran point guard Doc Rivers will draw Jordan as his defensive assignment tonight.

"John [Starks] and I have kind of switched off on him in the past," said Rivers. "But when I got my fourth foul [in Game 4], I couldn't relieve John on Mike.

"But the kind of groove Jordan was in, it really didn't matter who covered him," Rivers added. "He made so many tough shots. We're playing the same defense against him as we did before, and you just hope he misses some shots."

Despite Jordan's brilliant one-man show, coach Pat Riley and most of the Knicks believed Game 4 was winnable.

"We had our chances in the last quarter [closing to 94-90]," said Riley. "But we need to be more disciplined in our fundamentals."

The Knicks, with a 2-0 lead, arrived in Chicago last weekend with an air of quiet confidence. Now it is the Bulls, seeking a third straight title, who believe they've seized control.

"If we play like we did the last two games, I can guarantee a victory for us," said Grant, whose team has lost six straight at Madison Square Garden, dating to last year's playoffs.

"Is Horace some fortuneteller?" countered Rivers, who appeared to age overnight in trying to beat the Bulls' trapping defenses.

Starks also is pointing for Grant, accusing the Bulls' forward of pushing him to the ground in a fourth-quarter transition play. Starks, who was tossed in Game 3 for trying to mix it up with Jordan, started to charge Grant, but was quickly restrained.

Next up, Round 5.

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