Jordan reprises his hit number

May 11, 1995|By Melissa Isaacson | Melissa Isaacson,Chicago Tribune

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It still hangs from the rafters of the United Center, casting a long shadow on the Chicago Bulls franchise and illuminating the legend that is Michael Jordan.

But for one night at least, he needed to borrow it. Perhaps just to remember what it was like. Presumably to draw inspiration from the image he was reminded of every time he took the court as No. 45.

Jordan wasn't saying last night exactly what he was thinking or feeling when he took the suggestion from Bulls equipment man John Ligmanowski and donned his old No. 23. But he was certainly feeling something when he walked off the court following his 38-point performance and the Bulls' 104-94 victory over the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Let the hyperbole flow about the superstition, the league fine he no doubt cares nothing about. Even on whether he will don the jersey again.

The Bulls are now 1-1 in this best-of-seven series after a team effort that also saw the resurrection of Scottie Pippen's offense (22 points along with seven rebounds and five assists), fierce defense and mental toughness. And the jersey number only makes a good story better.

"The number on his shirt doesn't mean anything," said Orlando coach Brian Hill. "It's the basketball player inside the shirt that matters."

fTC And it mattered plenty in the second half last night. After a dismal Game 1 in which he was 8-for-22 with eight turnovers, including two in the final 10 seconds, Jordan was 17-for-30 in Game 2, 11-for-13 in the second half, to total his 38 points, along with seven rebounds, four steals and four blocked shots.

His final basket, a trademark two-handed, over-the-shoulder jam with 1:34 remaining following a block of Dennis Scott, punctuated a win the Bulls hinted at all game long.

"Right now, we feel very confident about the fact we played a game in which we finally got momentum and kept it for three quarters," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "Going back to Chicago, we have to be very sincere about holding the home court."

Shaquille O'Neal led Orlando with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and former Bull Horace Grant had 23 points and 15 rebounds.

Bodies were flying in the first half as the lead seesawed 10 times along with four ties, the Bulls leading by one at the end of the first period and by one at the half.

The Bulls survived a scoring drought from the 8:20 mark of the first quarter to 4:37 as the Magic struggled with their shooting and offensive execution, hitting just four of their first 10.

Jordan gave the initial impression that indeed the old No. 23 was back with a three-pointer to open up the Bulls' scoring, then a jumper from the wing, sandwiching a Pippen three-pointer.

But Jordan would miss his next four before finishing the period at 5-for-13.

Jordan sat out the first 3:42 of the second period, returning with the Bulls leading by five. He would go 1-for-4 the rest of the half and also missed five of eight free throws.

"I thought he forced the action in the first half," Jackson said of Jordan, "even though I warned him about that before the game."

At halftime, O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway had combined for 27 points, and O'Neal and Grant teamed for 14 rebounds.

The Bulls bench again dominated the Magic reserves, 14-5, and out-rebounded them 6-1.

O'Neal, 12-for-16 from the foul line in Game 1, was 13-for-20 last night. Defensively, he picked up his fourth foul at 5:33 of the third and exited a minute later, staying out the remainder of the period.

The Bulls, led by Jordan's 12-point third quarter, ran out to a 69-60 lead following a three-pointer by Pippen at 5:15 of the period. The Magic would cut it to 75-71.

But the Bulls would close the third quarter with five of six free throws to restore their nine-point lead.

The number switch took nearly everyone by surprise. Since Jordan dresses in a room separate from the Bulls' locker room, even his teammates and coach didn't know.

"I was shocked. The whole bench was shocked," said Steve Kerr, who had 11 points off the bench.

Hill said he didn't notice Jordan's number change until the third quarter. "After his third foul, I was looking for No. 45 on the scoreboard to see how many he had," Hill said. "Than I looked at his shirt and said, 'Oh , he's wearing No. 23 tonight.' "

Chicago 21 28 31 24 -- 104

Orlando 20 28 23 23 -- 94

CHICAGO -- Kukoc 5-10 0-0 11, Pippen 6-14 8-10 22, Longley 1-1 0-0 2, Jordan 17-30 3-8 38, Armstrong 1-6 0-0 3, Perdue 2-5 3-4 7, Blount 0-0 0-0 0, Kerr 4-6 2-2 11, Myers 1-1 0-2 2, Buechler 2-4

0-0 4, Wennington 1-2 2-2 4, Harper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 40-79 18-28 104.

ORLANDO -- Grant 11-16 1-3 23, Royal 0-3 0-0 0, O'Neal 6-15 13-20 25, Anderson 6-14 3-5 16, Hardaway 7-13 5-7 20, Scott 1-9 0-0 2, Rollins 0-0 0-0 0, Shaw 3-5 1-2 8, Turner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-76 23-37 94.

3-point goals--Chicago 6-11 (Pippen 2-4, Armstrong 1-1, Jordan 1-1, Kerr 1-2, Kukoc 1-3), Orlando 3-16 (Shaw 1-2, Hardaway 1-3, Anderson 1-6, Scott 0-5). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Chicago 52 (Kukoc, Perdue 8), Orlando 53 (Grant 15). Assists--Chicago 19 (Pippen 5), Orlando 21 (Hardaway 7). Total fouls--Chicago 30, Orlando 25. A--16,010 (16,010).

EYE ON THE BULLS

A look at how the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen have fared against the Orlando Magic in this series:

JORDAN

KAGm. .... .... FGM-A .... .... Pts. .... .... Reb. .... .... Ast.

1 .... ... .. 8-22 .... ..... 19 ..... ..... 5 .... ....... 3

2 .... ...... 17-30 .... .... 38 .... ...... 7 ...... ..... 3

PIPPEN 1 ..... ..... 2-11 ..... .... 7 ..... ...... 10 ..... ..... 7

2 ..... ..... 6-14 ..... .... 22 ..... ..... 7 ...... ..... 5

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