Hornets steal one from Bulls, 78-76 Controlling Jordan, Charlotte ties series

May 07, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- In Game 1, the Charlotte Hornets were embarrassed. In fact, they looked so bad that many wondered aloud whether they even deserved to be on the same court as the defending NBA-champion Chicago Bulls.

"People don't like to get embarrassed," said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens. "You want to win. And if someone says you're not up to the task, you're not in somebody's league, it makes your want to prove to them that they're wrong."

The Hornets did just last night, getting a big fourth quarter from Del Curry and B.J. Armstrong -- and holding Michael Jordan in check for much of the second half -- on the way to a 78-76 win that evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

It was an amazing turnaround for the Hornets, who scored just 49 points through three quarters -- the second game in a row that they had failed to score at least 50 through three quarters.

But Charlotte erupted for 29 in the final period last night, with Curry scoring 13 of his 15 in the fourth. Armstrong, who played for the Bulls for six years, had eight points in the period.

"We're in the playoffs and I would love to say it feels good," said Armstrong, when asked whether the win over his former teammates had any special meaning. "But we're just coming here to win basketball games, and I'm just going out and playing hard."

Maybe the key to the game was Charlotte's decision to defend Jordan with Anthony Mason through much of the second half.

Jordan was scoreless in the half until 4 minutes 57 seconds were left in the game, when he put in a layup. By that time, the Bulls were trailing and this was a game in which the late heroics by Jordan, who scored eight points over the final five minutes, would not lead to a Chicago win.

Even though they scored only 32 points in the second half of their Game 1 loss, the Hornets didn't appear to be too concerned entering last night's game. Their reasoning: they had gotten the shots they wanted in the 83-70 loss.

Well, they got those same shots in the first half last night. But there had to be a cause for alarm as they continued to miss. With top scorer Glen Rice scoring just two points and contributing to a 34.1 percent shooting half as he missed seven of eight, Charlotte scored just 40 first-half points.

And yet the Hornets were still in the game as Chicago managed just 35.7 percent shooting. That was still good enough for the Bulls, who got 14 points from Jordan to take a 36-30 lead.

The second game of the Eastern Conference semifinals started like a game between the Denver Nuggets and Toronto Raptors. The Hornets missed their first six shots before Mason scored on a short jumper to put Charlotte on the scoreboard with nearly three minutes into the game.

That was enough to take the first lead of the game because Chicago missed its first seven shots before a Jordan jumper tied the game at 2 with 8: 05 left.

At the six-minute mark, the scored was tied at 4 -- the Hornets missed 12 of their first 14 shots, while the Bulls missed 11 of their first 13. With Chicago's defense taking Charlotte almost completely out of its offense by double-teaming Mason every time he put the ball on the floor, the Bulls -- shooting just 33.3 percent -- had a 17-13 first-quarter lead.

Charlotte tied the game at 22 after a lay-up by Vlade Divac with 7: 54 left in the second quarter. But the Hornets did not score a point over the next three minutes 10 seconds, during which Chicago scored seven straight points to take a 29-22 lead on a jumper by Jordan with 5: 22 left.

Jordan would score 10 of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter, when he hit five of six shots. His jumper at the buzzer gave the Bulls the 36-30 halftime lead.

Even as Chicago built its lead to as many as nine points in the third quarter, the Hornets were making adjustments. Mason, to avoid the double-team, began catching the ball beyond the foul line and driving to the basket.

And Rice, after an awful first half, began to heat up and got Charlotte as close as 53-49 on a three-pointer with just over two minutes left.

But those would be Charlotte's final points of the quarter. And one game after scoring just 48 points after three quarters, the Hornets had just one more last night as they entered the final quarter trailing 57-49.

Pub Date: 5/07/98

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