The Chicago Bulls are turning the Los Angeles Lakers, the team of the '80s, into the team of the 80s.
The Bulls denied Los Angeles both its inside and outside games in winning 97-82 Sunday for a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.The Lakers shot 36.6 percent - other than Vlade Divac and Magic Johnson it was 24.5 percent - and for the series they are averaging 89.3 points, a far cry from the potent attacks that won five championships in the 1980s.
With the Bulls one victory away from their first championship in the franchise's 25-year history and their third straight win on the Lakers' home floor, Johnson on Monday said that what was supposed to be a classic series is turning sour.
"This series has been like going to a movie expecting it to be great, and then it gets to the love scene and the film breaks," said Johnson, who admitted he is "upset, frustrated, mad - all those things," about the Lakers' situation.
To make matters worse for the Lakers, who face a 3-1 deficit no team has ever overcome in the Finals, they could be playing Wednesday night without starters James Worthy or Byron Scott, or both, because of injuries.
Worthy aggravated the injury to the left ankle he sprained two weeks ago, and Scott has a bruised right shoulder.
"I have until Wednesday to make a decision on playing. I can't put a percentage on my chances," Worthy said. "We have to have hope, like we have all season. If we can get one win, things might turn around."
"It looks very bad with James out, and myself, I don't know," Scott said. "We'd like to go into each series completely healthy and we didn't. We're beat up and we're not playing well. The Bulls are taking advantage of it."
Johnson said he could tell that Worthy was in pain even before he left Sunday's game late in the third period.
"Even if James plays, he probably shouldn't be playing," Johnson said. "He's trying, but when he sees a lane open, he can't get there. He also can't defend, and the Bulls aren't stupid. They see that and use that to their advantage."
If the Bulls win Wednesday, they only have to hold the Lakers to 109 points to set a Finals record for fewest points allowed in a five-game series.
The Lakers have 357 points in four games. Fort Wayne had 467, an average of 93.4, in losing the 1956 Finals 4-1 to Philadelphia.
"We knew we could have success defensively, but we didn't have any idea scores would be this low," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "The Lakers had been keeping the number of possessions down against Portland, so we knew if they kept doing that, scores would be low. We just wanted to be a thorn in their side on every possession."
Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said the key to scoring points against the Bulls' pressure defense is "to make some outside shots to loosen them up inside. We've done a pretty good job of finding good shots, but we get out of position too often. When we spread the offense, we've been OK."
"We've been attacking them the right way. We just have to make the shots," Johnson said. "You never expect Sam Perkins to go 1-for-15. He was getting his shots."
Perkins, the hero of Game 1, said he was missing "little simple layups. They just didn't fall. They collapsed on me, which made it even harder. But the shots just didn't fall. I don't understand why."
Scott has made only five of 18 shots in the series, allowing the Bulls to concentrate on the Lakers' post-up game that was effective in their only victory in the series opener.
"They have the ability to trap and then recover," Dunleavy said. "Part of that is quickness and ability, but a lot of it is heart. I've been very impressed with their defensive talent. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are in the top five in the league."
"They stay on Byron and then double-team from the blind side so we don't see it coming," Worthy said.
Bulls guard John Paxson, who is responsible for staying with Scott while Chicago double-teams the ball, said he knows how Scott is feeling.
"Byron killed Portland and Golden State in the playoffs with his clutch jump-shooting," Paxson said. "I'm a jump shooter, and I know that if you don't get a lot of attempts, you can lose your rhythm."
Jordan, who has led Chicago in scoring in all 16 playoff games and is averaging 31.5 points in the Finals, said the Bulls "can taste the championship, and we can smell it, but the Lakers are a team with a lot of pride."