Jordan, Bulls hold off Knicks for 97-94 victory

June 03, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- There are some guarantees you can take to the bank. But the victory Chicago Bulls forward Horace Grant promised in Game Five of the NBA Eastern Conference finals with the New York Knicks needed a second-half explosion by Michael Jordan and a clutch three-pointer by B. J. Armstrong to produce a heart-stopping 97-94 triumph.

Armstrong made an insurance basket at the buzzer after Knicks forward Charles Smith missed four straight close-in shots that would have put New York ahead. Grant, Jordan and Scottie Pippen managed to deflect three of these shots.

Instead, the Bulls, leading the best-of-seven series, 3-2, can eliminate the Knicks in Chicago tomorrow and keep alive their dream of a third straight championship.

Jordan scored 17 of the Bulls' last 22 points and finished with 29.

Basketball writers were calling this "the biggest game" in the past two decades for the Knicks, who, in essence, were pieced together this season for one decisive run at the championship.

Although the Knicks had won 27 straight home games and whipped the Bulls the last six times on the Garden floor, there was the pressure of knowing that the fifth game almost always has been pivotal. In the past 10 years, 25 of the 27 teams that won this game went on to win the series.

And because of the extended schedule, the Bulls, and Grant in particular, were able to regain their health.

Knicks coach Pat Riley had complained about the disparity of the officiating in the two games in Chicago when the Bulls had an 81-58 advantage at the free-throw line. He underlined the fact that Jordan shot 31 foul shots compared to 14 for Knicks center Patrick Ewing.

New York aggressively attacked the basket in the opening minutes with its two forwards, Charles Oakley and Smith, scoring inside to produce a 10-9 lead. The Knicks hit their first five field-goal attempts.

Bulls center Bill Cartwright, who had only one basket in the first four games, made two straight shots to give his team a brief 11-10 lead.

Oakley was forced to leave the game after bumping heads with Cartwright, opening a gash on his forehead.

While Oakley got bandaged, New York got its fast break in gear, beating the Bulls press with quick downcourt passes. John Starks began an 8-2 run with a dunk and followed with two transition baskets for a 20-17 cushion. Chicago tightened its defense, and capitalized on turnovers to run off six straight points -- four by Grant.

Jordan, who took 30 shots in Game Four, seemed content to set up his teammates, scoring only two field goals on six shots in the first quarter that ended with Chicago ahead, 31-28. Scottie Pippen led the scoring with 11 points, hitting all five of his field-goal attempts.

Patrick Ewing, limited to three points in the first quarter, scored five quick points at the start of the second quarter to forge a 33-33 tie. Blackman then reclaimed the lead for the Knicks with a 20-foot jumper.

Chicago went into a five-minute scoring drought and also got in early foul trouble, allowing New York to shoot bonus free throws only three minutes into the period. But Anthony Mason and Ewing both missed a pair of free throws.

After a 9-0 run gave the Knicks a 39-33 spread, Jordan hit a baseline jumper for the Bulls' first basket of the quarter. The scoring pace quickened, with Ewing and Cartwright matching shots down low.

New York, hitting its first 11 shots in the quarter, got unexpected help from reserve guard Greg Anthony, who hit two field goals to give the Knicks a 51-45 lead.

Chicago closed to 51-49, but Cartwright was charged with a flagrant foul after pushing Ewing to the floor. Ewing converted three free throws, but New York led by only one at the half, 56-55.

Jordan made only three of 12 shots in the first half, but Pippen compensated, hitting eight of 11 in scoring 17 points. He also grabbed six rebounds. Cartwright contributed 13 points. Ewing led the Knicks with 15 points.

New York shot 67 percent (22-for-33) from the field, but missed 10 of its 22 free throws.

A tip-in by Grant put Chicago back on top, 57-56, to start the second half. After Rivers made his first field goal, the Bulls answered with six straight points to increase its lead to 63-58.

Jordan got the wind knocked out of him after catching a Rivers knee in the midsection with four minutes left in the quarter and required a brief timeout.

Chicago then blew several fast-break opportunities and the Knicks trimmed the deficit to 75-74. Jordan answered with three straight points. At the end of three quarters, the Bulls enjoyed an 80-77 advantage. Jordan, finding the range, scored nine points in the period.

Both teams stepped up their defense in the final quarter, having problems beating the 24-second clock. Jordan hit his fifth

straight shot to make it 82-77. Both Starks and Ewing missed technicals after the Bulls were called for illegal zones.

Jordan took advantage by making a three-point play to give Chicago its biggest lead, 85-77. But Ewing countered with a desperation three-point shot with the clock expiring.

A layup by Mason and a baseline shot by Ewing trimmed the margin to 87-85. After Jordan missed a bank shot, Ewing made a three-point play to give New York an 88-87 edge.

Jordan's free throw tied it at 88 and his offensive follow-up put the Bulls ahead again, 90-88. Rivers swished a three-pointer to force another lead change, 92-91, with two minutes left.

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