Facebook Twitter

Who wants it?

Bulls fans started to have major doubts after Game 1. Chicken Littles all over Chicagoland were not only convinced that the sky was falling but that the dynasty was over, too - without title No. 6.

But then Utah Jazz fans were the ones who had reason to become depressed and/or panic.Three straight losses - including one by a Finals record 42 points - had folks in these parts resigned to the fact that the NBA championship trophy in Utah was about as likely as a hotel-casino being built on Temple Square.

Yet somehow, despite doomsday predictions on both sides, the Finals are right where they are supposed to be after five games. The Bulls are up 3-2, but the Jazz have the advantage of playing the remaining game or two in the Delta Center, where they rarely lose. Game 6 is set for tonight.

It's enough to make fans on both the shores of Lake Michigan and the Great Salt Lake feel pretty good about their favorite team's chances right now.

That could change, of course, in the blink of an eye. By, oh, 8 p.m., Jazz fans will either be euphoric and in a hardly-can-wait-until-Wednesday's Game 7 mode or they'll be bummed out that the season is over and the Bulls are still the world champs.

Bulls star Michael Jordan is well aware of the emotional roller-coaster the teams send their fans on. He even thinks it's "cute."

"I love those moments," said Jordan, referring to the final 1.1 seconds of Friday night's game, when the Jazz held on to a two-point lead but the Bulls had the ball and a chance to win with a three. "Great players thrive on that in some respects because they have an opportunity to decide happiness and sadness. Happiness was on our side at the time, and sadness was on Utah's side.

"Unfortunately, we reversed roles. Sadness in Chicago and happiness in Utah. That's what you live for. That's the fun part about it."

Then again, if fans have too many more "fun parts" like the end of Game 5, heart attacks across the Wasatch Front may increase tenfold.

While the Jazz's victory on Friday - thanks in large part to clutch performances by Karl Malone and Antoine Carr - allowed them to live another day, the Bulls are still in the driver's seat. They only need to win once in two tries and have already proven able to break through to win on Utah's floor.

"Game 6 is important to us," said Scottie Pippen, who was the likely Finals MVP through four games before struggling to a 2-for-16 shooting night on Friday. "We still have the advantage. We don't want them to tie the series up, even though we are very comfortable going back on their homecourt."

The Delta Center has a reputation for being the noisiest in the league, but if the Bulls get ahead early, they can take the crowd right out of it.

"I don't have any idea" how noisy the Delta Center will be, said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan after Utah's short workout on Saturday. "If we don't play very well, it won't be very crazy."

Still, the Jazz like their chances being back on their home floor. The Bulls, meanwhile, were none too pleased with having to travel back across the country on Saturday afternoon.

"I know no one wanted to make this trip," said Pippen.

The Bulls had a similar situation in 1993. They had a 3-1 lead and the chance to close out the Phoenix Suns in Chicago, but lost. They were then forced to travel back to Arizona. The stay wasn't long, however, as they edged the Suns in Game 6.

There is some question about the residual effect on the Bulls after losing an emotional Game 5. Some even argue that it's tougher to lose by two points, like the Bulls did on Friday, than to lose a 42-pointer, like the Jazz did a week ago.

"It's one loss," said Jordan. "You can't let it eat at you to a point where it becomes two losses."

Neither team is expected to make too many changes in strategy in the series pitting two evenly matched, defensive-minded teams. The games have all been close - with the exception of Game 3. The other four games have gone down to the wire where either team could win. Each club has come out on top in two of those games.

The Jazz may start Carr at center tonight. If they do, it will be the fourth person they've started in that position this series following Greg Foster, Greg Ostertag and Adam Keefe. There won't likely be many other strategic changes.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are trying not to overreact to one loss. Center Luc Longley didn't play well on Friday and was burned often by Malone, but Dennis Rodman didn't do much better.

"You guys have to remember (Friday was) a two-point win by the Jazz," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson, explaining why there won't be wholesale changes. "You don't throw out the baby with the bath water in that kind of a situation. We're fine."

The fans' roller-coaster ride, part six, will begin at 5:30.


Additional Information


Additional Information

Bulls vs. Jazz: The Rematch

Game 1 Jazz 88

Chicago 85

John Stockton leads Jazz with 24 points

Game 2 Chicago 93

Jazz 88

Jordan scorches the Jazz for 37>

Game 3 Chicago 96

Bulls lead Jazz 54

series, 2-1 Jazz shoot 30 percent in blowout

Game 4 Chicago 86

Bulls lead Jazz 82

series 3-1 Pippen, Jordan combine for 62 points

Game 5 Jazz 83

Bulls lead Chicago 81

series, 3-2 Mailman delivers 39 points

Game 6 Chicago

June 14 at Utah

Tonight TV, Time, NBC, 5:30 p.m.

Game 7 Chicago

June 17 at Utah

If necessary TV, Time: NBC, 7 p.m.