Trailing in the second half by 18, the Chicago Bulls didn't look at all like the super team that won 72 regular-season games and trounced Orlando in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals.
"We were lost," admitted Michael Jordan.So the Bulls turned to a full-court press and sent their double-teaming defense at Magic center Shaquille O'Neal.
What followed were bad passes, turnovers, missed shots and a total breakdown of Orlando's offense.
Suddenly the Magic's lead went "poof," disappearing more quickly than a Jordan steal, length-of-the-court dribble and acrobatic, tongue-wagging dunk.
Orlando became so discombobulated it managed only 35 second-half points Tuesday night and the Bulls pulled out a 93-88 victory that gives them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
"Needless to say it was a very difficult basketball game for us to lose," said Orlando coach Brian Hill, whose team lost by 38 in the opener.
"We lost our aggressiveness on offense. We began looking to pass backwards."
The Bulls trapped ballhandlers and doubled O'Neal, forcing the huge center to pass. He'd hurt them with 26 first-half points, mostly in 1-on-1 coverage.
"In the first half, they played with a lot of rhythm in the way they got the ball into Shaq," said Jordan, who had 35 points one day after winning his fourth MVP Award. "But once we were able to put that press on, they lost the fluidity. It takes a lot of energy to play the press. When we were down 18 points, we had no choice."
O'Neal, who had 36 points and 16 rebounds, hit a short hook to give the Magic a 64-46 lead with 6:17 left in the third quarter.
Then came the collapse.
Orlando missed 11 of 12 shots, had five turnovers and Jordan scored nine points to spark a 26-5 Chicago run. That gave the Bulls a three-point lead. Orlando came back and regained the lead, but never the poise it had earlier in the game.
"We had a lot of careless turnovers," O'Neal said. "When I was doubled, I just had to give up the ball and shots weren't falling.
"Anytime you have a lead like that, man, you just got to take care of the ball. . . . But they (the shots) will fall at home. No need to panic now."
Eleven of the Magic's 17 turnovers came in the second half.
Penny Hardaway, the Magic's other star, had 38 points in Game 1. But he was limited to 18 Tuesday night on 6-for-15 shooting and he managed to get off only one fourth-quarter shot.
"I told myself I picked the wrong day, the biggest game, to not be ready to play. And it cost us the victory," Hardaway said.
Games 3 and 4 are in Orlando on Saturday and Monday.