Suddenly, the 1998 NBA Finals have been whittled down to a five-game series, and now it's the Chicago Bulls who have the home-court advantage.
Their Game 1 debacle down the stretch against the Utah Jazz a distant memory, the Bulls downed the Jazz 93-88 Friday night to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.In the process, Chicago delivered a message to the Jazz, that reports of their demise the last couple of days are greatly exaggerated. You knew the five-time NBA champs would not go quietly into their imminent breakup. They proved they'll go out kicking and screaming. Retirement may be beckoning Michael Jordan, but he's not done yet.
Now the venue switches to the lair of M.J., who scored a game-high 37 points to lead the Bulls in Game 2. The Jazz face the task of playing three in a row at the United Center, needing to win at least one to ensure a Game 6 in Salt Lake City.
Chicago's victory negated a stellar performance by Jeff Hornacek. The Jazz guard, playing with nagging injuries, basically has the legs of an 84-year-old man. But that didn't stop him from pouring in 20 points, including two big 3-pointers, in 32 minutes.
Even in defeat, Jazz fans have to admit this series has been an enthralling ride thus far.
This is not documented, but concession sales at the Delta Center are probably less-than-brisk these days on account of the fact that if you leave your seat for more than a nanosecond, you're liable to miss a breathtaking play.
In the first quarter alone, the lead changed hands 10 different times between the two heavyweights. For most of the contest, this game was more was more nip-and-tuck than a Hollywood star's facelift surgery.
And it easily could have gone Utah's way, if not for 19 turnovers. It appeared the Jazz and Bulls were destined for back-to-back overtime games. Utah took a slim 73-70 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Bulls played like the same Bulls Jazz fans have learned to hate over the years. They played smart, they hit clutch shots and they made good on crucial free throws.
Now it's the Jazz's turn to make a statement as they travel to Chicago. At the rate the Finals are going, loaded with high drama, let's hope it doesn't end anytime soon. How 'bout a best-of-11 series?