If any team has the right to feel confident despite a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-7 series, it's the Chicago Bulls. If any team has the right to feel confident when it's behind in the fourth quarter, it's the New York Knicks.
The Knicks lead their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Bulls 2-0 after a 96-91 victory Wednesday night in which New York manhandled Chicago once again in the fourth quarter.The Bulls were scoreless in the first five minutes of the final period and finished with 19 on 4-for-16 field-goal shooting. In Game 1, Chicago scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Knicks finished a rally from a 15-point deficit.
"We haven't been able to handle their pressure down the stretch, and that has cost us two ballgames," said Scottie Pippen, who scored 22 points but missed 10 of 15 shots.
But the Bulls have reason to believe they have a chance despite the hole they're in.
After all, they beat New York four straight last year after falling behind 2-0, and went on to their third consecutive NBA title. Even without Michael Jordan, they have residual confidence going into the third and fourth games at Chicago on Friday night and Sunday.
"It seems like the same old thing again," said Horace Grant, who joined B.J. Armstrong with 23 points for the Bulls. "It's going to be difficult, but we feel confident."
"We were in this position a year ago and still won," Pippen said. "I'll take our chances. This team hasn't shown it can dominate us, so we feel we can still win. We just need to finish off the game when we have the lead in the fourth quarter."
John Starks scored eight consecutive points during an 11-0 run that gave the Knicks the lead for good.
With the Bulls ahead 72-69 at the start of the fourth quarter, Patrick Ewing started the spurt with two free throws. Starks then hit two 3-pointers and a layup after a steal, and Greg Anthony finished the burst with a free throw with 8:12 left, giving New York an 80-72 lead.
"John threw a couple of biggies right in the hoop," Knicks coach Pat Riley said. "He wants to play, wants to do well and win. He just has to maintain his composure."
"I always feel like my next shot will fall," said Starks, who is 19-for-51 in the playoffs despite his heroics Wednesday night.
Ewing scored 26 points and reserve Anthony Mason had 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks. Starks finished with 13 points and joined Ewing with 10 in the fourth quarter.
New York's excitement over the two comebacks is tempered by the memory of three straight playoff series defeats to the Bulls.
"Everyone knows what happened last year, but if we can play well for 48 minutes, we can get it done in Chicago," Mason said.