Not this time. Not in their house. The Seattle SuperSonics refused to be stooges for the Bulls, keeping Chicago's quest for history on hold for at least one more game.
"Vindication? I don't know if I want to call it vindication," Seattle's Hersey Hawkins said. "But after not playing well the other night, having our hearts tested, our courage tested, that made us want to come out and play with a lot more intensity."When everyone has already counted you out, it's a lot easier to play loose, to go out and have fun, and that's exactly what happened. I think you finally saw the way the Sonics are capable of playing basketball."
Coming off a 22-point loss that put them in position to be swept right out of the NBA Finals, the Sonics dominated Wednesday night in a 107-86 victory over the supposedly unbeatable Bulls.
Chicago played nothing like the best team in history, a title it might have claimed with a victory.
After cruising through a record 72-win regular season, the Bulls won 14 of 15 playoff games. Not only could they have won the NBA championship Wednesday, they could have done so with a best-ever 15-1 postseason mark.
Friday, instead of attending a celebration back home - an event that had to be postponed because of Wednesday's loss - the Bulls will again go for their fourth championship in six years. Even with a victory, however, there will be those who would question Chicago's right to be considered the NBA's all-time team.
"As players, we knew what we had at stake," said Chicago's Scottie Pippen, who scored only nine points on 4-of-17 shooting. "I'm sure the Sonics knew it, too, and they stepped up their play. They outplayed us."
The Sonics shot 56 percent to the Bulls' 40 percent, made 53 percent of their 3-pointers to Chicago's 25 percent and forced 18 turnovers while committing only 15. It was only the second time all season the Bulls lost by more than 10 points.
"This team's taken a lot of (criticism)," Seattle coach George Karl said. "But I don't think anybody stopped believing in that locker room. We were mad, we were angry, we were frustrated, we were annoyed."
The Sonics, whose 64-18 regular-season record ranked 10th in NBA history, played like champions in Game 4.
Gary Payton outplayed Michael Jordan for the first time in the series, Shawn Kemp had 25 points and 11 rebounds despite first-half foul trouble, Hawkins (18 points), Sam Perkins and Detlef Schrempf played well in supporting roles, and Nate McMillan returned from injury to provide both a physical and emotional lift.
"If we played like that in Game 1 or 2, we could probably have gotten one of those games. But we didn't," said Payton, who had 21 points and 11 assists and helped hold Jordan to 23 points on 6-of-19 shooting. "Now we're playing this way, and I hope we can stay playing this way."
The Bulls, of course, figure they can't play much worse.
"We're entitled to a bad game. Let's try to limit this to one," Jordan said. "Chalk this one up to them. They seemed very defiant. We'll see if they can maintain it Friday. I guarantee that we'll come back and play better. This team's got to get us three more times."
As for the Bulls' place in history, Jordan told reporters: "That's for you guys to decide. We never decided to give ourselves the best-team-in-the-history-of-the-game label. What we have to do is win one more game. Where we stand in history and if we're determined to be the best team, it's not our decision. We just play the game."
Wednesday, Seattle played the game far better.
The Sonics used a 28-11 advantage in the second quarter - Chicago tied a record for lowest-scoring period in NBA Finals history - to take a 53-32 halftime lead. The Bulls never really threatened in the second half.
"The prince came and kissed us, and now we have to wake up," Dennis Rodman said. "You can't beat a good team four in a row. That's impossible. It's only one game, we're going to come back Friday. It gives the people some excitement."
If the Sonics win again Friday, the series could get really exciting. The teams would return to Chicago for Game 6 on Sunday.
No NBA team ever has rallied from a 3-0 playoff deficit to win a series. And, in fact, Seattle became the first since the New York Knicks in 1951 to win Game 4 after losing the first three.
So the Sonics are chasing a bit of history themselves.
"We knew we can win games," Payton said. "We made a lot of mistakes the first three. Tonight, we came out playing the way we were supposed to play. We've got to come here Friday and try to win that game, and hopefully we can go to Chicago . . . and see what happens."
McMillan, who has barely played this series because of nerve damage in his back, had eight points, three assists, three rebounds and two big 3-pointers in 14 minutes. One of his 3-pointers, after Chicago pulled within 13 points in the third quarter, sparked a 20-6 run that put the game out of reach.
"Nate's our inspirational leader," Hawkins said. "No one wanted to win more than him. He was intense."
And he helped the Sonics win the battle of intensity.
"We thought they were a little overconfident," Kemp said. "So we came out and played very aggressively. The last thing you want to do is get to the finals and not win one game."