Physical's out, style's in for finals Bulls don't want Suns to run wild PRO BASKETBALL

June 07, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- We've heard all about the crimes against the game. The lurching and crunching, bumping and grinding, all the sins of Knicks-style basketball. And like New York pizza, pastrami and frankfurters, the last two weeks have been an offense to the average law-abiding, basketball-fearing Chicagoan who is used to the way things are and the way they should be.

But now, things should be different for the Bulls, whose coach is looking forward to the NBA Finals against Phoenix as much as players like Scott Williams, who said Friday night, "It sure is going to be fun not getting your teeth jarred loose every night."

For coach Phil Jackson, it sounds like a cultural experience is in store.

"I think that's going to be a little bit of a liberating thing because these guys have been running around with a body strapped to them for the last two weeks," he said. "So now it's going to feel like they're dancing, they're free."

"Style" replaces "physical," in the current basketball lexicon. But it is every bit as important as the Bulls and Suns begin to get a feel for each other.

"What New York is great at is keeping a body on a person all the time and keeping hands after the ball, hands on arms and pushing people so their momentum is going away from the basket," Jackson said. "We're not going to see quite that kind of defense. We're going to see people met in the lane. We're going to see bodies coming together in collisions. But we're not going to see the same kind of physical play."

The Bulls held the Knicks to an average of 92 points in the Eastern Conference finals while scoring 97 a game. Only twice in 13 playoff games have teams scored more than 100 on the defending champs -- Atlanta in the Bulls' 117-102 Game 2 victory, and Cleveland in the Bulls' 103-101 series clincher. During the regular season, the Bulls were second in the league, allowing just 98.9 points a game. The Knicks allowed only 95.4.

The Suns averaged a league-leading 113 points a game during the season while allowing 106.7, but in the playoffs they're averaging 104 while giving up 103. And Jackson spoke cautiously about trying to keep their scoring down.

"The only warning I have for this ballclub is that they don't take their offense too highly and underplay their defense, because defense wins in all series," Jackson said. "You just cannot overlook the fact that Phoenix wants to go and engage you in a running game with them and we just can't get into that. We have to play our style of game, and our style is trying to eliminate a team from scoring 100 points. That's a challenge for this club."

Will the Bulls run? "We can definitely dominate if we can get out and move the ball," said Scottie Pippen, who thrives in the open court.

But expect the Bulls to run only in certain situations -- after steals and in transition on long rebounds, and depending on the lineups in the game. However, they will not try to keep up with the Suns.

"We're not going to let them run up and down," Jackson promised. "Our style of game does involve us running, but more than anything we want to eliminate their running."

Though the Bulls were second in the league in three-point shooting, the Suns were third and have illustrated their prowess throughout the playoffs by hitting 73 of 215.

"If we play good defense and not let them get all those three-point shots, we can keep them around 100 points," Pippen said.

"They're an inside-out team," Jackson said. "They either go into Charles Barkley and go outside to their shooters or penetrate with Kevin Johnson and go out to their shooters. They threaten in the middle and head out to the free-throw line. But what they feast on is free throws."

The Suns tied a playoff record in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, hitting 57 of 64 from the foul line. "That's ridiculous," Jackson said.

Conversely, the Bulls do not want to take one look at the offensive potency of players such as Barkley, Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge and assume they can't play defense.

"You guys are going to start attacking their defense," John Paxson chided the media. "I think when you score a lot of points, you're probably going to give up a little more than normal because you're playing such an up-tempo game."


BULLS VS. SUNS (Best of seven)

Day Site Time

Wednesday at Phoenix 9 p.m.

Friday at Phoenix 9 p.m.

Sunday at Chicago 7 p.m.

June 16 at Chicago 9 p.m.

June 18* at Chicago 9 p.m.

June 20* at Phoenix 7 p.m.

June 23* at Phoenix 9 p.m.

* If necessary

TV: Chs. 2, 4

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