After seven quarters of missed dunks, long-distance airballs and bungled fast breaks, after seven quarters of Michael Jordan getting no support from his supporting cast, the Chicago Bulls finally played offense like the NBA champions they expect to be.
The ball zipped from one Chicago player to another, players were open in prime scoring positions, and shots began falling for Scottie Pippen and Jordan's other helpers.The result? A fourth-quarter TKO of the New York Knicks, a 91-80 Bulls victory Tuesday night and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinals.
"You're not going to hold a team like Chicago down, a guy like Scottie down," said New York's Derek Harper, whose team plays host to Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday.
"They rely on you to turn the basketball over and they push the ball up the court to get their easy baskets. That's what happened in the fourth quarter. They got a lot of comfortable baskets and everything came extremely tough for us."
The Bulls, who shot 38 percent in Game 1 and won only because Jordan scored 44 points, were at 36 percent through three quarters Tuesday. Pippen, 4-for-15 in the opener, was 3-for-16 entering the fourth quarter of Game 2.
Chicago certainly didn't look like the team that won an NBA-record 72 games this season, and Pippen wasn't playing like the all-star he is.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the Bulls shot 58 percent, Pippen was 4-for-5, and the Knicks were finished.
Pippen had seven points during a 12-0 run that turned a one-point game into a 76-63 Chicago lead. That spurt was part of a 24-6 surge over 71/2 minutes, during which the Bulls were 10-for-14 from the floor and the Knicks were 0-for-4 with five turnovers.
"We went in determined to move the ball around and take good shots, but it didn't really kick in until the fourth quarter," Bulls guard Steve Kerr said. "Then we finally broke them. We got some easy shots and made them."
Said Pippen, whose 19 points complemented Jordan's 28: "I wasn't going to back away from my shot. I still thought I had good rhythm, and (assistant coach) Tex Winter told me to just catch the ball, pull up and shoot."
The Bulls also got 19 rebounds from Dennis Rodman, 15 points from Ron Harper and solid play off the bench from Kerr and Bill Wennington.