Michael Jordan broke his silence and the spell that the Detroit Pistons cast over the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan scored 47 points and Scottie Pippen had 29 points and 11 rebounds Saturday, and they led a charge that brought the Bulls back from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to a 107-102 victory. The outcome cut Detroit's lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference final to 2-1.Jordan, who cut off contact with the media after Tuesday night's 102-93 loss in Detroit, said his decision not to talk was not a tactic and that he had not criticized his teammates, as had been widely reported.
"I didn't say `you' guys weren't playing well, I said `we' weren't playing well," Jordan said of Tuesday's game. "I didn't talk because I wanted to give the other guys a chance to talk."
"We did not lose faith," Jordan said of the Bulls' astounding comeback that snapped a six-game losing streak to the Pistons in the playoffs and regular season. "We did everything we had to do down the stretch to win the ball game."
Jordan said a team concept has always been part of the Bulls.
"Although I've always scored a lot of points, it has always been a team effort," Jordan said. "I took advantage of my opportunities against the best defensive player in the league (Joe Dumars). Today the offensive player had the edge.
"Scottie Pippen stepped in and Ed Nealy helped, although not necessarily by scoring a lot of points," Jordan said. "We were aggressive. I tried to push the ball down the court to make things happen."
Detroit coach Chuck Daly said the Bulls "were superb, with Jordan dishing it off. The game related to the offensive boards. They kicked our butts on the offensive boards."
The Bulls, with only 15 offensive rebounds in the first two games, had 21 on Saturday compared to 12 for the Pistons.
"Jordan was alert, he made the shots he had the ball all the time," Daly said. "When we were up by 14 points, we didn't have many possessions and some calls went against us."
Asked if he would make any changes for Monday afternoon's game at Chicago Stadium, Daly said, "You want us to deviate after losing only our second game in the playoffs?"
Isiah Thomas scored 36 points and Mark Aguirre came off the bench with 22 for Detroit. Dumars, who led the Pistons in scoring in the two previous games, was held to eight.
Daly said the Pistons "wasted a good effort, especially with Isiah having a great shooting game."
"You have to hand it to the Bulls," Dumars said. "They really stepped it up when they had to. When Michael is hitting his jumper, he is impossible to stop."
"We played aggressive basketball and the offensive rebounding was important," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "By making Michael the focal point of double and triple teaming, the rebounds were there."
Thomas had 26 points when the Bulls mounted their comeback midway through the third quarter.
"There's not much you can do about Isiah," Jackson said. "You try to get him out of his game and hope he cools off."
Detroit led 69-55 before Jordan and Pippen took charge during a 21-6 run that gave the Bulls a 76-75 lead on a pair of free throws by Jordan.
Jordan scored 13 points in the period and Pippen had 12. A pair of free throws by Vinnie Johnson gave Detroit a 77-76 lead as the quarter ended, but the Bulls went ahead to stay at 84-82 on another basket by Jordan.
A 3-pointer by Jordan with 2:22 left boosted the Bulls into a 99-90 lead and a three-point play by Nealy in the final minute made it 104-97.
Thomas' fourth 3-pointer of the game, with 15 seconds remaining, closed the gap to 105-102 before Jordan sealed the issue with a pair of free throws with two seconds to play. Jordan was fouled after he rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Aguirre that would have tied the score.
Jordan was held scoreless until 4:40 remained in the period and finished with three in the quarter, but the Bulls led 24-19 going into the second period.
With mostly reserves on the court for both teams, the Pistons had a 13-2 run to take a 32-26 lead.
Jordan returned with 8:20 left in the half and made three baskets to help the Bulls cut the deficit to 38-36. But the Pistons outscored the Bulls 13-7 the rest of the half to take a 51-43 advantage, with Detroit's bench outscoring Chicago's 24-0.
With Thomas scoring nine of Detroit's first 11 points in the second half, the Pistons took a 62-50 lead and then boosted it to 14 points twice before the Bulls came to life on a series of turnovers and fouls by Detroit.