Dennis Rodman dominated, the Chicago Bulls romped and most of the Orlando Magic forgot to show up.
Rodman grabbed 21 rebounds, scored 13 points and played tough defense on the much bigger Shaquille O'Neal on Sunday as the Bulls opened the much-hyped Eastern Conference finals with a 121-83 victory.Michael Jordan scored 21 points and Scottie Pippen had 18 for Chicago, which outrebounded Orlando 62-28 and took the first step to avenging last year's bitter second-round loss to the Magic.
Anfernee Hardaway, who drew a technical for shoving Rodman, had 38 points and O'Neal 27. But the Magic's other three starters - Horace Grant, Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott - combined for just two points.
Grant, who overpowered the Bulls in the 1995 playoffs, had no points and one rebound before leaving with a twisted left elbow late in the third quarter. Team doctors said his status was not clear for Game 2 Tuesday night in the best-of-7 series.
If history is an indicator, Orlando already is in serious trouble. It has played seven postseason series; each time it lost an opener, it was swept. In 21 series in which the Bulls won the opener, they lost just one.
After losing eight of 10 games to the Magic, including four in last year's playoffs, Chicago has won four straight.
In addition to getting beaten badly on the boards, Orlando was 8-of-24 from the foul line.
The Bulls did little wrong as they showed why they won an NBA-record 72 games this season. They shot 55 percent from the floor, and when they did miss, they often grabbed the rebound. Chicago had 20 offensive rebounds to six for Orlando.
Rodman demonstrated why the Bulls acquired him from San Antonio before the season. The blond-haired, tattooed rebounder was full of energy from the opening tip despite being weakened by a stomach virus.
"It doesn't matter what's wrong with me," he said. "I come out and do my job."
Rodman pumped his fist after tipping in baskets, grabbing seven offensive rebounds and even scoring a season-high.
"A lot of people are counting me out, and that's not right," Rodman said of his scoring. "Today there was the right chemistry."
When Bulls center Luc Longley got in foul trouble, the skinny, 6-foot-8 Rodman even defended the 7-1, 301-pound O'Neal. During the 13-0 third-quarter spurt that put the game away, Rodman forced O'Neal into two turnovers and a missed shot. And the run began after the normally mild-mannered Hardaway was assessed a technical foul for pushing Rodman out of bounds.
The Magic, who went to the NBA Finals last year and finished a solid second in the Eastern Conference with a franchise-record 60 wins this season, looked out of Sunday's game from the start.
Chicago opened with a 10-0 run, as Longley scored the first four points over O'Neal as the sellout crowd of 24,411 roared.
The Magic outscored Chicago 20-11 to open the second period, O'Neal getting six points and three assists, to cut the deficit to 43-39. But Longley scored twice, including a reverse layup on a sensational assist off a rebound by Rodman, as the Bulls built their halftime lead to 55-45.
Rodman had as many rebounds in the first half as Orlando did. The Bulls outrebounded the Magic 31-13, including 11-1 on the offensive boards.
Hardaway kept Orlando close until midway through the third quarter. The Magic trailed only 65-56 before Jordan's 20-foot jumper began the decisive 13-0 run.
Grant averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds and shot 65 percent in the series against Chicago last year. Before he injured his elbow, he was chided by chants of "Ho-race! Ho-race! Ho-race!" The fans remembered Grant being carried off the court on his teammates' shoulders last May more than they remembered Grant helping the Bulls win NBA titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993 before leaving for Orlando as a free agent.