Paxson's bomb completes Bulls' threepeat, 99-98

THREE FOR THREE

June 21, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- It required a return trip to the desert, but the Chicago Bulls completed their threepeat mission last night by overcoming the Phoenix Suns, 99-98, to win the NBA Finals, four games to two.

The Suns did not set easily. They led 98-94 with 2:22 left but did not score again. The Bulls, who scored only 12 points in the last quarter, closed within two points on Michael Jordan's layup with 39 seconds left.

After Dan Majerle's miss, the Bulls patiently worked the ball to John Paxson, who swished a three-pointer for the game-winner with 3.9 seconds remaining.

Phoenix still had a final chance, but power forward Horace Grant came to the rescue by blocking Kevin Johnson's attempted drive through the lane.

It was a spectacular finish to an unusual series in which the Suns lost all three home games and the Bulls won only once in three tries in Chicago.

The Bulls, displaying signs of fatigue under the Suns' relentless attack, showed great resolve in the closing minutes to avoid a seventh-game showdown here Wednesday night.

Chicago became the first team since the Boston Celtics dynasty (1959 to 1966) to win three straight championships.

The Suns were willing to concede Jordan his points in the first five games in which he averaged an NBA Finals record 42.6, but they were trying to deny him easy penetration to the basket.

Before guaranteeing a return to Phoenix with a 108-98 victory inChicago on Friday night, defensive coach Scotty Robertson asked the team who was guarding Jordan.

"Kevin Johnson," came the response in unison, referring to the 6-foot-1 point guard who has drawn the unenviable assignment of trying to stop the league's leading scorer.

"Wrong," said Robertson. "We're all guarding him."

In Game 5, Jordan converted 16 of his 29 shots in scoring 41 points, but most of his baskets were from the perimeter.

"We succeeded in what we wanted to do," said Robertson. "Jordan got 41, but we won by 10."

But the Suns expected Jordan to be more aggressive in attacking the basket after having his vow that the Bulls would wrap up their third straight title in Chicago thwarted by losing two of three on their home court.

"The guy is human, but barely," Johnson said of Jordan before theSuns faced their sixth must-win situation in this year's playoffs.

The capacity crowd of 19,023, not expecting a return engagement by their Suns, was in a festive mood. Almost all of the fans were dressed in the team colors of purple and orange.

Phoenix was aggressive in driving to the basket in the opening minutes. Majerle accounted for eight points as the Suns took a 10-7 lead.

Jordan, not forcing the issue, fired home a pair of three-pointers to push the Bulls in front, 17-16. But the fast pace was more to the liking of the Suns who led the league in scoring.

Chicago capitalized on two straight Phoenix turnovers to pad its lead to 22-16. A three-point play by Majerle and Danny Ainge's three-pointer pulled the Suns into a 22-22 tie. B. J. Armstrong quickly countered with a three-pointer from the left corner.

The Suns got into the bonus and made their free throws to hang close. But the Bulls got some breathing room when Trent Tucker and Jordan swished consecutive three-point shots and Paxson beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 20-foot jumper for a 37-28 cushion.

Jordan and Majerle led the scoring with 13 points apiece. The Bulls, with excellent spacing and ball movement, were getting easier shots than the Suns. The Bulls shot 64 percent from the field (14-for-22) compared to 43 percent for the Suns (nine-for-21).

Chicago, pounding the offensive boards, boosted its advantage to 41-30 at the start of the second quarter. But Phoenix answered with a 9-0 run and Jordan then dribbled the ball out of bounds.

The Bulls now turned tentative on offense, with their big men repeatedly passing up close-in shots. Scottie Pippen finally ended the Suns 10-point streak with a short jumper.

But reserve forward Tom Chambers excited the hometown fans by completing a drive with a reverse slam dunk. When Barkley bulled his way underneath for a layup, Chicago's lead had been reduced to 46-45. A pair of free throws by Chambers tied it at 47.

Jordan got his first points of the quarter at the 10-minute mark with two foul shots, but they were matched by Barkley. After Chicago scored five straight, Barkley worked a pick and roll with Ainge for a dunk. Pippen hit a short jumper in the lane to give the Bulls a 56-51 halftime lead.

Both teams struggled offensively in the second quarter. Chicago was a sickly 6-for-20 from the field and Jordan did not have a basket in the quarter. Phoenix converted eight of 20 shots for 40 percent.

With Chambers showing the way,the Suns closed to 62-59 in the opening minutes of the second half. The Suns were doing an excellent job of denying Jordan the ball, but Pippen and Armstrong picked up the slack.

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