Game 3 loss rekindles sense of purpose within Bulls They intend to end series in Chicago

June 17, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- When Scottie Pippen passed him on the Chicago Stadium basketball floor during media interview sessions Tuesday afternoon, Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley yelled at his Bulls rival and former Olympic teammate, "Hey, Scottie, want to go with me to dinner in Phoenix next week?"

"Sorry, Charles, but we ain't going back to Phoenix," Pippen replied with a sly smile.

It was Pippen's warning that the defending champion Bulls, leading the best-of-seven NBA Finals, 2-1, would wrap up the series with victories in games 4 and 5 on their home court.

"We can't allow a team to think they're back in the series," said Pippen, who was hampered by leg cramps in the Bulls' triple-overtime loss Sunday night. We're going to try and end this series right here.

"Losing was probably good for us. Sometimes, we need to be brought back to reality. We get too full of ourselves. The Suns snuck up on us, played their style and forced the upbeat tempo."

Added Michael Jordan, who struggled with his shooting in game 3, hitting only 19 of 43 field-goal attempts, "We want to take care of business here. If they get another win on our floor, they'll have a lot more confidence going back to Phoenix."

"In the back of our minds we were saying, 'We've got the crowd, we're back where we want to be,' " said point guard B.J. Armstrong. "We got too comfortable. On the road, you tend to concentrate a little more as a veteran club because you know the challenge at hand. We just didn't show that same aggressiveness."

Bulls coach Phil Jackson said the home court advantage only applies under certain conditions. All three home teams have lost this far in this championship series.

"Of course, playing at home helps," said Jackson, "but to make it work in your favor, you have to make your surroundings an island of isolation. You can't have your mother-in-law, brother-in-law, aunts and cousins camped in your living room."

The Suns, free of such problems on the road, were feeling invigorated before game 4.

"I guess the pressure is still on us," said Suns guard Danny Ainge, "but this team has played better all year under pressure. Our biggest weakness has been inconsistency."

One of the main reasons for the Suns' renewed hope was point guard Kevin Johnson's ability to rebound from two sub-par performances in Phoenix. In Sunday's marathon, Johnson played a record 62 minutes and contributed 25 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds while also disrupting Jordan's rhythm on defense.

"For us to win, we need our leaders the guys who have been leading us all year -- Barkley, Dan Majerle and myself," Johnson said.

But Johnson did his best to play down the results of his match-up with Jordan.

"Everyone is getting Michael mad, saying I want to guard him," he said.

"The last thing we want is for him going out there thinking he has something to prove."

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