Air-like Pippen deflates Bullets, 106-93

March 15, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- It was about 90 minutes before tip-off and in front of one of the stalls in the Chicago Bulls' locker room was a brand-new pair of Air Jordans, just like Mike liked them.

No, Michael Jordan did not come back from 18 months of retirement to play against the Washington Bullets last night. But the guy who would put on those shoes, Scottie Pippen, wore them admirably.

Pippen put on an Air-like show with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Bulls ran away from the Bullets, 106-93, before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at USAir Arena.

"He's the best player in the league," Bullets forward Chris Webber said. "It's that simple."

Pippen, who has been swamped with questions about Jordan since last week, did not speak to the press.

Pippen hit his first five shots and ended the evening 12 of 17 from the field. Much has been written about Pippen's problems in Chicago this season, but the 6-foot-7 forward has only led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. The last player to do that was Dave Cowens with the Boston Celtics in 1977-78.

Pippen's performance came as the Bullets were attempting to put together three straight wins for the first time. They had had some success this season against the Bulls, winning two of three games. But Washington, despite having five players in double figures and a 50-38 rebounding edge, was hurt by turnovers and trailed by as many as 18 points.

"They were very good defensively," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "They got 30 points off 18 turnovers. That means they were running with it."

a,3 Running with it and dunking with it, with Pippen compiling enough slams to fill a video. He did the job defensively as well, as he did a decent job against Webber, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Gheorghe Muresan led the Bullets, scoring 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, matching career highs in both, and was a defensive presence. Muresan matched a career high with 36 minutes. In the 12 minutes he did not play, the Bullets were outscored 40-12.

"When he's on the court is usually when we are ahead of the other team," Lynam said. "Gheorghe is coming. He's a factor defensively."

Offensively, the Bullets didn't get much from anybody other than their starting front line, with Juwan Howard scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Don MacLean scored four points in 27 minutes, hitting two of 12 shots. Rex Chapman scored 11 points off the bench in 31 minutes. And Calbert Cheaney scored nine points, hitting three of 10 shots.

But enough about the Bullets. The Bulls have become the NBA's equivalent of the Rolling Stones, with media members trailing their every move since the Jordan rumors began a week ago. The latest unconfirmed Jordan rumor: He has scheduled a news conference for today to announce his intentions.

"We really don't know too much about a press conference or anything, and, to be honest, we don't know if it's going to happen for sure," said Bulls guard Steve Kerr. "It's giving us energy. Right now we've been mired around the .500 mark. With him coming back, who knows?"

If Jordan comes back, it might be enough to keep Pippen in a Chicago uniform. It has been reported that Jordan is trying to assure that the Bulls keep Pippen and redo his contract.

"[Pippen's] been unbelievable all season and he's probably as happy as anybody," Kerr said of the rumors. "He's always asked for help the last couple of years, and if this happens, he'll get as much help as possible."

Bulls coach Phil Jackson would welcome the added help Jordan would provide.

"[Pippen's] the leader of this basketball club and I think he's optimistic about what might happen," Jackson said. "I think this whole club is optimistic. [Jordan's] been out playing. That's reason to be optimistic by itself."

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