Magic Johnson's size, strength, ball-handling skills, post-up ability and court sense make him a difficult defensive assignment for any NBA team.
The Chicago Bulls, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, do the job as well as anyone, but coach Phil Jackson said his team's 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals is not the result of its defense on Johnson."What we're trying to do and what he's forcing us to do are two different things," Jackson said Saturday. "Magic's maintained the ability to pick us apart. What we try to do is hinder his vision, restrict his ability to see the court."
"Both Michael and Pippen are similar in what they're trying to do," Johnson said. "They pick me up and pressure me. They do a good job when they pick me up high. But I'm doing a good job when I get down low. And when they double-team me, I have to find the open man and make the pass."
Johnson is averaging 18.3 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds in three games, but the Lakers have yet to score 100 points in the series and are averaging just 91.7.
Johnson's averages in the playoffs are 22.1 points, 12.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds.
Pippen, who at 6-foot-7 is just two inches shorter than Johnson, has been most effective on him 1-on-1, but that matchup forced Jackson to put the 6-6 Jordan on 7-foot Vlade Divac.
"Pippen on Johnson hasn't really worked well because we had to out Jordan on Divac, who just took the ball right to the basket," Jackson said. "But we may have to use that matchup again because of foul trouble, which dictates a lot who we put on Magic."
Pippen said he enjoys guarding Johnson.
"I try to put pressure on Magic, make him turn his back," Pippen said. "I like to stay in his face, so he can't see the court as well."