For once, the Seattle SuperSonics and Chicago Bulls had a common enemy: the referees who called Game 4.
For far different reasons, the two teams criticized Mike Mathis, Joey Crawford and Bill Oakes, a trio not known for their reluctance to blow the whistle.Seattle coach George Karl said the game offered evidence that Michael Jordan gets special treatment from the officials.
Jordan was called for a technical foul after arguing an offensive foul call against him early in Chicago's 108-87 loss Wednesday night.
Jordan kept on arguing vehemently, but the referees kept their whistles silent. Later, Jordan was called for a flagrant foul.
"Michael did enough to get thrown out of the basketball game," Karl said. "If he's not Michael Jordan, I think he would have gotten thrown out. I have no problem giving that hypocrisy respect because I think Michael's earned that."
But the Bulls saw the situation in a different light. Chicago coach Phil Jackson said Jordan was the victim of two bad calls.
"The offensive foul that Michael got a technical on and the flagrant foul, which were momentum-builders, were not good calls," Jackson said. "Every little call that seemed to go against us they capitalized on. Those are things that turn close games into runouts."
Dennis Rodman, who also drew an early technical, said the refs were too concerned about controlling him specifically and the game in general.
"Of course, they're going to try to get me," Rodman said. "I heard Joey Crawford say, `We need to calm him down.' All of a sudden you get me because I go out on the court and say somebody's holding me.
"Some of these referees need to get their mind straight, too. They've got to realize they're not the focus of the game. It's all about the players on the basketball court. Let us play. Let us have some fun and let the people have some fun."
SONICS LEADER: Shawn Kemp, not Gary Payton, is the leader of the Seattle SuperSonics, according to Michael Jordan.
While Payton runs the offense, Kemp sets the tone for Seattle with his power game, Jordan said.
"He's the leader," Jorsan said. "He's the one everyone looks to as the guy who can create that emotion, that motivation, from a dunk to a block to any kind of exciting play so that the rest of the team can feed off of it.
"That's a very important part to any team. I think Kemp brings that to the table."
NATE'S GREAT: Things are looking up for Seattle's Nate McMillan after his triumphant return in Game 4.
McMillan missed the previous two games with a nerve injury to his back. The return of the Sonics' co-captain Wednesday night provided inspiration and gave Gary Payton a lift by allowing him a break from point guard duties so he could concentrate more on his offense.
McMillan was able to play 14 minutes. He hit two of three 3-pointers and had three assists.
McMillan said he felt surprisingly good on Thursday.
"I thought I'd have more soreness than I did," he said. "I'm able to walk without too much pain. Before, I did have a lot more pain."
He said he should be ready to play again tonight, but he doesn't know how much.
HOBBLED HARPER: Ron Harper's sore left knee doesn't seem to be getting any better. After going just one minute in Game 3, he managed 13 minutes in Game 4, none in the second half.
"It prevents me from having that quick foot movement, to step in the passing lane, and from being able to go strong for a whole game," Harper said.
He said he would play tonight. But Chicago coach Phil Jackson said the injury may be more serious than tendinitis and that Toni Kukoc might start in Harper's place.
After years of struggling with lesser teams, Harper is aggravated that he's been slowed by injury.
"It's frustrating knowing that you're not able to go out there and play the game that you like to play," he said. "I had to wait so long just to be here. But as long as my teammates can take care of this team, it will be all right."
WINGATE'S READY: Seattle's David Wingate, a benchwarmer much of the season, found himself in the crucial role of guarding Michael Jordan for part of Game 4.
He said he's learned to just stay prepared for when he's called upon to play.
"A lot of people tend to forget that I played a lot during the regular season when certain people went down," Wingate said. "It's just that when people came back, I had to step down again."
Wingate said he learned about mental toughness and how not to get down on himself when he played for John Thompson at Georgetown.
"If things don't work out the way you want them to work out, you don't let down or anything like that," he said. "You try to overcome those problems and smooth things out."