Jordan hits finishing nail 87-86 win over Utah provides Chicago its sixth title of '90s

Chicago gets 2nd threepeat

Heroics net Jordan sixth NBA Finals MVP

June 15, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

SALT LAKE CITY -- In losing Game 6, the Utah Jazz survived a last-second missed shot from Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan. Last night, Utah made the mistake of giving one of the game's fiercest competitors a second chance.

Second chance for Jordan came with five seconds left, and Chicago trailing by a point. And Jordan made good this time, hitting what proved to be the game-winning shot as the Bulls won their third straight title with an 87-86 win that capped a fitting ending to what may have been the end of an era.

"That's something that will be determined over the summer," Jordan said.

Jordan scored 45 points, including the final eight for the Bulls -- who fought back from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit for the win. Chicago's sixth NBA title of the 1990s wasn't complete until John Stockton's potentially game-winning three-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

And when that horn sounded, the Bulls celebrated, much to the shock of the Utah fans who moments before thought their team's effort was enough to push the series to a Game 7. To no one's surprise, Jordan was named the game's Most Valuable Player, giving him six such awards in each of the Chicago championship years.

"Of all the championships we've won, this was the toughest," Jordan said. "It was a long road with lots of bumps."

Jordan may not have had that chance to hit the game-winning shot had it not been for his play on the defensive end, when he stripped Utah forward Karl Malone in the low post as Utah was attempting to build on its 86-85 lead. As the Bulls spread the court, Jordan faked a drive to the basket, shaking Bryon Russell off-balance. Then he calmly sank the shot that might have been the final of his career.

"We fought hard," Malone said. "The guys did a good job. It's a tough loss. Give them credit.

"I'm not a quitter. I've just got to get away for a while to think about things."

For the Bulls, it was theirsecond opportunity to clinch the title. But from the start, there was some concern about the health of Scottie Pippen, who strained his back during Friday's loss and spent much of yesterday in treatment.

Pippen started the game, and scored on a dunk on Chicago's opening possession. But as he came down, he grimaced, obviously aggravating the back injury. Pippen would play the first seven minutes, then went to the locker room for treatment and missed the rest of the half.

And without Pippen, the Bulls were still in the game at halftime. And that was because of the clutch shooting of Jordan who, sensing his team in need of offense with Pippen out, scored 23 points in the half that helped the Bulls stay within 49-45.

Aside from the blowout in Game 3, this series has been close throughout. But Utah, facing elimination for the second straight game, went through a cold stretch midway through the first quarter during which the team missed five straight shots. During that time, the Bulls were scoring nine straight points, and after a layup by Ron Harper with 4: 58 left, Chicago had a 19-8 lead.

Utah coach Jerry Sloan was livid, screaming at his team during a timeout. Whatever he said must have struck a chord because the Jazz responded with nine straight points of its own. And after Malone scored on a jumper with 1: 45 left, it was Utah that rebounded to take a 19-18 lead.

Malone would end the quarter with 12 points, hitting all four of his shots from the field. More importantly, Malone had five free-throw attempts in the quarter, significant since Malone had only shot more than six free throws in a game once in the series.

It was Malone who scored seven of the final eight points for Utah, and when he converted a three-point play with 15 seconds left, the Jazz -- shooting 64.3 percent -- had a 25-22 lead.

With Pippen out -- and in need of getting Jordan a rest -- Phil Jackson had a team of Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington, Jud Buechler and Scott Burrell on the floor at the start of the second quarter. And that team fared well, only trailing by 28-24 by the time Jordan checked back in with 9: 39 left.

And it was around that time that Jordan said enough with the triangle offense he labeled a college offense last week. As he carried the team, Jordan during one stretch hit six straight shots, from many different angles. The final shot of that stretch, a baseline jumper, tied the game at 45 with 1: 40 left.

But Jordan, who squeezed off 11 of Chicago's 16 shots in the quarter, tired and missed his last three from the field. And Utah closed the half on baskets from Stockton and Russell, whose layup with four seconds left gave the Jazz a 49-45 lead.

Pippen did start the third quarter, but he was a shell of the player who had dominated this series defensively. Pippen missed two easy layup attempts, and wound up hitting one of three field goals in the third before he again went to the locker room for treatment.

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