Bulls stay cool, calm collected After missing clincher, title thoughts abound heading to Utah tonight

June 14, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

It's a disappointment the Chicago Bulls have been through before. In 1993, having failed to close out the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 at Chicago Stadium, the Bulls were forced to postpone a night of partying and instead board a plane they sorely did not want to get on.

"In 1993, I got on the plane with a cigar and celebrated a little bit and got everybody else to enjoy themselves, relax a little bit and play the game," Jordan said.

Perhaps inspired by Jordan, the Bulls won Game 6, 99-98, at America West Arena to win a third straight NBA title. That's an effort the Bulls would like to duplicate in tonight's Game 6 at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City as they take their second shot at eliminating the Utah Jazz.

Chicago's advantage in the best-of-seven series is 3-2 after Friday night's 83-81 loss at the United Center. The Bulls also lost the home-court advantage they had gained in the Game 2 win in Salt Lake City. Still, the team is confident it will win one of the two remaining games for its sixth NBA championship in the 1990s. The Bulls are trying to avoid becoming the only team in the history of the Finals to lose a title after leading 3-1.

"You guys have to remember, this is a two-point win by the Jazz," said Chicago coach Phil Jackson, fielding some critical questions after the loss on Friday. "You don't throw out the baby with the bathwater in that situation. We're fine. We know that it was just a matter of things down the stretch."

What the Bulls will need down the stretch tonight is some offense other than Jordan and Toni Kukoc. Each scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including some clutch shots by Kukoc. Kukoc's career-high 30 points, on 11-for-13 shooting, was wasted.

"Toni, I think, played the game out the way it was supposed to be played out," Jackson said. "He didn't try to rush it, do anything unusual. I thought he took advantage of the opportunities to shoot. That's the way we want him to play."

However, Scottie Pippen had a night to forget offensively, scoring six points and missing 14 of 16 shots in an outing that might cost him series MVP consideration. Pippen did help in other ways, with 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

"I just felt like it was a disappointment on my part, my performance," Pippen said. "I can't say that my shots weren't there. I tried to be more aggressive taking the ball the basket, and they were getting away with a lot of fouls, strips."

That was part of the aggression played by the Jazz, which had its guards attack the lane whenever a Chicago player put the ball on the floor. That style forced 16 turnovers, which led to 19 Utah points.

And who knows where this series would be standing had Utah coach Jerry Sloan played 27-year-old reserve forward Antoine Carr earlier in the series. Carr had not played more than 13 minutes in any of game of the series before Friday, when he played 21 minutes and was -- other than Malone -- the only Utah player to score in double figures (12 points, five of six field goals).

Carr played with a bit of venom, upset that fans in Chicago constantly disturbed him by calling his hotel room into the early hours of the morning.

"I just wanted to let them know that I could still score inside," Carr said of his game on Friday. "I figured we were going to go out fighting. Hopefully, we can do it again and again."

Meaning tonight and Wednesday, as the Jazz attempts to take advantage of its home court. To extend the series Utah will need another huge effort from Malone, who hit 17 of 27 shots from all over the court on the way to his 39 points. The outside jumpers that he had missed all series began to fall on Friday."

"I thought Karl Malone was sensational," Sloan said. "He's had games like that before. We made up our mind to try to make sure he got the basketball. He was able to get to where he wanted to be."

And Utah might have to again extend the playing time of John Stockton, who usually gets breaks at the six-minute marks of the first and third quarters that usually limits his playing time to about 31 minutes. Stockton didn't get that break in the third on Friday, and the result was the most minutes he has played (38) in a non-overtime game this year. Stockton had 12 assists and five steals.

Those are the sacrifices you make when facing elimination. By winning Game 5, Utah is again playing at home, something many doubted after losing the first two games in Chicago. The Jazz is 8-2 at home in the playoffs.

"We're still kicking, we're back home, something we worked for all season long," said Stockton. "We want to play with confidence at home, and see what happens."

NBA Finals

Chicago vs. Utah

Chicago leads 3-2)

Date Res./Site Time

Game 1 Utah, 88-85, OT

Game 2 Chicago, 93-88

Game 3 Chicago, 96-54

Game 4 Chicago, 86-82

Game 5 Utah, 83-81

Today at Utah (-2) 7: 30

Wednes. at Utah 9*

*-If necessary

(Line in parentheses)

TV: Chs. 11, 4

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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