The Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls have punched out first-round opponents in the NBA playoffs. In the case of the Bulls, it was nearly in the literal sense.
"We went out with a physical attitude and did what we had to do," Michael Jordan said after scoring 25 points in the Bulls' hard-nosed 110-86 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.The Bulls used an aggressive body-checking defense and a decisive second-quarter run to wrap up the best-of-5 series in four games.
"It was a trench game and a warfare game," Bulls Coach Phil Jackson said. "We hadn't played great defense this series. We talked about not letting them get to the basket for easy ones."
The Houston Rockets didn't get many easy ones against the Lakers, who prevailed 109-88 at Houston to advance to the second round.
In Thursday night's other game, Cleveland beat Philadelphia 108-96 to tie that series at 2-2.
Two more first-round series continue tonight, with Boston at New York and Utah at Phoenix. Boston and Phoenix hold 2-1 leads.
Bulls 110, Bucks 86
The Bulls, promising to be more physical to reciprocate for what they felt was rough play and hard fouls from the Bucks in the first three games, got tough on defense in the final seven minutes of the second quarter.
Chicago, getting 11 points from Jordan, outscored the Bucks 22-5 in those seven minutes, taking a 56-39 halftime lead.
Milwaukee managed only one field goal in the final 7:37 of the first half, that a 3-pointer by Brad Lohaus with 56 seconds to go. Chicago then held the Bucks to only two third-quarter field goals, pulling ahead 84-60 going into the fourth quarter.
Scottie Pippen had 20 points for Chicago, which has beaten the Bucks 20 times in 23 games. Alvin Robertson led Milwaukee with 20 points and Ricky Pierce had 19.
"They dominated us on our home court," said Bucks Coach Del Harris, expressing concern about the use of the hard foul.
"It think it's getting into an area where it's dangerous for both the players and league. Players are too vulnerable. They have no padding and no protection. It's getting to be so that the hard fouls are as common as a pick and roll. It's becoming a sign of macho."
Lakers 109, Rockets 88
James Worthy scored 10 of his 20 points in the final eight minutes as the Lakers finished off the Rockets in four games.
Worthy scored his first basket of the fourth quarter with 7:37 left, during a 12-2 run when the Lakers took charge of the game at 93-83 with 6:35 to play.
Magic Johnson scored 19 points for the Lakers, who outscored the Rockets 12-2 over the final 4:17.
Akeem Olajuwon led the Rockets with 28 points and 14 rebounds and Otis Thorpe scored 18 points.
"They did a great job of double-teaming the lane early in the game," Worthy said of the Rockets. "But they got in foul trouble and maybe got a little tired and the opportunities came to me later."
Three Houston starters - Olajuwon, Otis Thorpe and Vernon Maxwell - had three fouls by halftime.
Cavaliers 108, 76ers 96
Brad Daugherty hit 10 of his first 11 shots and scored a team playoff-record 34 points as Cleveland beat Philadelphia.
The teams split their four regular-season games, with each winning once at home and once on the road. Each has won its two home games in the playoffs.
The fifth and deciding game will be Saturday at Philadelphia.
Mark Price set a Cleveland playoff record with 18 assists, and Daugherty, who also grabbed nine rebounds, had his best offensive game of the season. His regular-season best was 30 points.
Cleveland's previous playoff scoring record was 32 points, set by Campy Russell against New York in 1978 and tied by World B. Free against Boston in 1985.
The Cavaliers virtually shut down the 76ers in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 22-14. The Sixers went scoreless from the field for seven minutes as Cleveland widened an 89-84 lead to 97-85 with five minutes left.
"We shot the ball poorly, and Brad Daugherty had a career night," Philadelphia's Charles Barkley said. "We've got to do something to shut him down. We didn't double him tonight and he's too good not to double. We've got to go back to the drawing board."