The `O' word is already popping up. The Chicago Bulls aren't listening - at least not yet - to talk about the Orlando Magic.
And for good reason. The Magic's bid for a sweep of Atlanta was waylaid by a Hawks victory in the other Eastern Conference semifinal Monday night.The Bulls, meanwhile, still need one more win over the New York Knicks, a proud team with a defense that always causes problems for Chicago.
Leading 3-1 headed into tonight's Game 5, the Bulls are expecting the Knicks to be even more deliberate than usual and to play with a sense of desperation.
"I think their coach will throw them out there for as many minutes as possible. There is no saving the guys for the next game. This is it," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "We just want to finish them off, whatever it takes, five or six or seven games."
"I just want to win and move onto the next round," said Dennis Rodman, whose rebounding has been instrumental in the Bulls' victories.
The Bulls will more than likely play again tonight without Toni Kukoc, who sprained ligaments in his back in practice last Friday and missed both games in New York over the weekend when the Bulls pulled off a split.
And Scottie Pippen, who like Kukoc has struggled with his shot, twisted his back Sunday, but will play. How effectively no one knows. He's also got sore ankles, which are affecting his ability to push off, and a tender shoulder.
Pippen has made only 24 of 76 shots in the series, and without his consistent scoring, more of a burden has fallen on Michael Jordan.
Chicago has 46-38 average rebounding advantage, with Rodman grabbing 16.5 per game. And in the series, the Bulls have 71 offensive rebounds to just 39 for the Knicks.
Patrick Ewing, held to three points in the fourth quarters of the first two games, was revitalized with strong finishes the last two games. Now he still chases that elusive first title. He steadfastly believes the Knicks can beat the Bulls. And in all three losses in the series, they were in position, but couldn't pull it off.