Facebook Twitter

This time, M.J. brings friends

SHARE This time, M.J. brings friends

After losing the first game of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, Michael Jordan let his teammates know that he needed some help from somebody else on the Bulls besides Scottie Pippen.

The Game 1 goats listened.Oh, sure, it was still the Jordan and Pippen show in the Bulls' 93-88 victory at the Delta Center Friday night, just as it has been for the last five championships.

The Dynastic Duo combined for 58 points - 37 coming from Air and 21 from Pippen.

"We had shared scoring? Michael had 37," Pippen joked in response to a reporter's question about getting offensive help from the rest of the team.

OK, so the supporting cast didn't give them a whole lot of scoring help, but the aide they did provide was vital to Chicago evening the NBA Finals at one win apiece.

Toni Kukoc carried the baton early for Da Other Bulls. He started in place of Dennis Rodman once again, which paid off for Chicago.

In the opening quarter, Kukoc scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting while also grabbing four rebounds. His play helped the Bulls take a 23-20 lead after the first 12 minutes.

Kukoc added another five points - the last he scored - in the second quarter as Chicago upped its edge to 50-46. He finished with 13 points.

"He can make the defense focus on his shooting," said Jordan about Kukoc, who scored nine points but needed 12 shots to do so in Game 1.

Jordan carried the Bulls in the third quarter with 10 points, but Dennis Rodman grabbed five of his nine rebounds in the period.

Rodman, who was actually on the bench when his number was called in the first quarter unlike Game 1 when he was biking, also came up with a big steal in the third. He snagged an errant Jeff Hornacek pass and then threw the ball down to Jordan who waltzed in for a two-handed dunk. That gave the Bulls their biggest lead of the game at 61-53.

The Jazz reeled off an 11-0 run to regain the lead, but the Bulls responded each time Utah tried to pull away. The Worm - of all people - even managed to have one of his prayers answered. He was left alone on top of the key and he nailed an ugly jumper to tie the score at 74-all.

"Sure, he took a shot that surprised everybody," said Jordan, "but he made it so you have to pat him on the back."

Well, that is, if you dare touch him.

About a minute later, Rodman popped the ball out of Malone's hands and Pippen scored on a jumper, sparking the Bulls to a 9-0 spurt. Jordan finished off the run, giving the Bulls an 81-74 lead, with an inside bucket and a sweet-looking fade-away shot which he made (along with the free throw) despite being fouled by Jeff Hornacek.

The Jazz answered with a 7-0 run of their own, but the Bulls took the lead for good as Steve Kerr got a little redemption from his Game 1 defense against John Stockton. Kerr missed a trey but he hustled down the rebound then dished the ball to Jordan who made a 3-point play the old-fashioned way (a layup and a free throw for you Generation Xers).

"That's true desire to what we needed to do down the stretch," Jordan said of the 6-foot-3 Kerr's offensive rebound.

The Jazz still had time (48 seconds) to tie the game, but Malone missed an 18-foot jumper and Rodman hauled in the board. He then wisely called a timeout with 23.4 seconds left before the Jazz could foul him.

Kerr then drilled two free throws and was sent to the bench in favor of Ron Harper. The defensive move, which wasn't made in the first game, proved wise by Chicago coach Phil Jackson. Harper stole Bryon Russell's poor inbounds pass to John Stockton and made a free throw to essentially wrap the game up.