The Bulls can be beaten. It's happened all of 11 times this season.
Most of the losses were to teams not nearly as good as either Seattle or Utah, which are battling for the right to meet Chicago in the NBA Finals.Of course, nobody has figured out how to beat the Bulls consistently, which is why they have followed the best regular season in league history, 72-10, with an 11-1 playoff mark.
Nevertheless, either the SuperSonics or the Jazz might have a chance to win four out of seven games against Chicago - if they do enough things right. Some suggestions:
HIT FROM DOWNTOWN
In Chicago's 11 losses, opponents made 46 percent of their 3-pointers compared to 32 percent in the Bulls' 83 wins.
"That doesn't surprise me," said Steve Kerr, Chicago's resident 3-point expert. "Looking back at our losses, it seems like the teams never missed."
The Miami Heat had only eight players in uniform Feb. 23 but still beat Chicago by going 15-of-23 from 3-point range. Rex Chapman was 9-of-10.
Toronto won March 24 by going 11-of-17 on 3-pointers; New York was 10-of-21 in its March 10 victory; Orlando went 9-of-20 on Nov. 14.
"In most of those games, we covered the inside pretty well," Kerr said. "If a team's going to catch fire, we have to live with it. But I don't think a team can pour in 3-pointer after 3-pointer over a seven-game series."
So far in the playoffs, he's right; Chicago's opponents are shooting only 28 percent from 3-point range.
ROUGH 'EM UP
New York handed the Bulls their only postseason defeat and played Chicago close in the other four games of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"It wasn't easy," Scottie Pippen said. "The Knicks gave us a tougher time than anyone else."
Literally. The Knicks never missed a chance to deliver a forearm to the chest or a knee to the thigh.
After Game 5, New York tough guy Charles Oakley was asked if the Magic could beat Chicago in the conference finals.
"Orlando has a chance if they watched how we played them," he said. "But if they try to be pretty and have fun . . . they have no chance."
The Magic had no chance. They didn't play rough, and Chicago swept them out of the playoffs. Injuries and poor performances by several healthy players also hurt Orlando.
KEEP IT CLOSE
Michael Jordan is regarded as one of the great clutch players in basketball history. Even so, the Bulls are beatable in tight games.
They were 0-3 in one-point contests and 6-4 in games decided by three points or fewer.
But staying close to the Bulls isn't easy; in their 83 victories, they outscored opponents by an average of 106-90.
SHUT DOWN THE SUPPORTING CAST
The Bulls are 16-0 when someone besides Jordan leads them in scoring.
"Michael sometimes beats you all by himself," New York's Derek Harper said. "But sometimes, even he needs help. If you go into games accepting that Michael will get his 30 - maybe even his 46 - but you shut down everybody else, you'll have a chance."
In the playoff loss to the Knicks, Jordan had 46 of Chicago's 99 points.
Jordan actually averaged more points during the Bulls' 11 losses (31.8) than during their 83 wins (30.5).
HOPE PIPPEN AIN'T HITTIN'
Pippen shot 36 percent in the Bulls' losses, 47 percent in their victories. The disparity is even wider on 3-pointers: 25 percent vs. 39 percent.
"When Scottie's on," Kerr said, "I don't think there's a team in the world that can beat us. He and Michael just overwhelm teams."
But when Pippen is hobbled, as he has been the last few months, or when he's simply playing poorly, "the Bulls can lose just like other teams with only one star," New York's Anthony Mason said.
Pippen also has a reputation of playing small in big games. There's the migraine headache that hampered him in the seventh-game loss to Detroit in the 1990 conference finals. And there's the infamous 1.8 seconds he refused to play at the end of a playoff game against the Knicks in 1994.
"Scottie has matured," Jordan said. "People should let the past go."
Seattle's Gary Payton, Denver's Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Phoenix's Kevin Johnson, Toronto's Damon Stoudamire and Charlotte's Kenny Anderson were outstanding in leading their teams to victory over the Bulls.
All are quick point guards who were able to run around Chicago's 6-foot-6 tandem of Jordan and Ron Harper.
"Playing defense against those little guys is pretty new to me," Jordan said. "I look at it as a great challenge, but it's difficult sometimes."
Payton had 26 points and 11 assists as Seattle defeated Chicago early in the season. The Bulls might have to face him again in the NBA Finals.
BAIT THE WORM
Rodman lives on the edge. Sometimes, he steps over it.
He's constantly challenging referees; in March, he head-butted Ted Bernhardt and was suspended for six games. And Rodman won't back down from confrontation with players. He's been known to throw a punch, the basketball, even his entire tattooed body at opponents.
So far this postseason, however, Rodman has shown restraint. And he has improved in each round. He dominated Orlando with his energy, rebounding and interior defense. He even showed the Magic a few offensive tricks.
Opponents who counted on an explosion from the ticking time bomb that is Rodman didn't take into account how desperately he wants a big-money contract from Chicago next season.
"I'm a winner," Rodman said. "I'm not going to do anything stupid."
And yet . . .
There's always a chance the Worm will turn. Another head-butt would give either Seattle or Utah hope.