June 9, 1997 in Sports

Jazz Make It A Series Utah, Chicago Now Dead Even

Marc Stein Dallas Morning News
 

The air of invincibility is no longer swirling around the Chicago Bulls.

It’s the Utah Jazz, rather suddenly, looking a lot closer to unbeatable.

At home, at least, Utah certainly seems untouchable, as seen again Sunday night when it rallied for an improbable 78-73 victory over Chicago that tied the NBA Finals at two games apiece.

With a three-month home winning streak - and its playoff life - in jeopardy, the Jazz scored the final nine points to score its 23rd straight triumph at the Delta Center.

“I think we’re a long ways from (being) in command,” Jazz hero John Stockton said after his 17-point, 12-assist, four-steal performance.

“But we’re certainly in better position than we were when we flew home from Chicago.”

The first home loss for the Jazz since Feb. 23 looked reasonably certain with 2:27 to play, when Michael Jordan, who finished with 22 points, broke loose for a dunk that made it 71-66.

It was the highlight of a 12-point fourth quarter for Jordan, but it was the second-to-last basket he - or anyone in red and black - would produce. Stockton and Karl Malone were the dominant figures down the stretch, putting the Bulls in a 2-2 deadlock for just the second time in their five Finals appearances.

“Very rarely have we been in a 2-2 situation, but we also haven’t lost (a Finals),” Jordan said. “This is crunch time.”

In Sunday’s stretch run, Stockton launched the Utah comeback with a long three-pointer with 2:23 remaining. Jordan put the Bulls up, 73-69, just 21 seconds later, but Stockton answered again.

First he stripped the ball from Jordan, setting up the first of back-to-back trips to the free-throw line that pulled the Jazz within a point (73-72).

Stockton then threw a length-of-the-court pass, after a missed Jordan jumper, that gave Malone a layup that gave Utah the lead. When Chicago’s Steve Kerr missed a three-pointer in the corner on the next possession, Malone was given the opportunity to atone for his two missed free throws with 9.2 seconds left in Game 1.

Malone made them both for a 76-73 edge.

“This time, I thought about 650 million people watching - again,” said Malone, who finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. “In life, sometimes you never get another opportunity. You guys call it redemption. As a player, you wish sometimes you have another opportunity. Sometimes you never get to. I was able to.”

Malone then helped seal the victory by rebounding Jordan’s in-and-out three-pointer with 9.9 seconds to go and getting it to Stockton. Stockton, in turn, flung the ball downcourt to Bryon Russell for an uncontested dunk.

After his Game 1 misses, Chicago’s Scottie Pippen chided Malone about the Mailman’s inability to deliver on a Sunday.

This time?

“I guess he delivers on Sundays here,” Pippen said. “I’ve never seen them with any fear in their eyes. We realize how well they play at home. We realize that this series was never over when we left Chicago.”

Said Stockton: “Not yet. And I’m proud of this team for that. We’re playing the Chicago Bulls, maybe the greatest team of all time, and there were a lot of chances to quit.”

Instead, the Finals are all even going into Wednesday’s Game 5 here - Utah’s last chance to play on the floor that has been so friendly.

Jazz 78, Bulls 73

FG FT Reb CHICAGO Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts Pippen 47 7-16 1-2 2-12 4 2 16 Rodman 25 0-4 0-0 1-6 2 4 0 Longley 25 5-6 1-4 4-7 0 1 11 Jordan 42 11-27 0-0 1-4 4 3 22 Harper 27 1-4 1-2 2-5 1 1 3 Brown 4 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 1 0 Caffey 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Williams 19 4-6 2-4 0-0 0 2 10 Kerr 23 1-5 0-0 0-0 2 2 2 Kukoc 24 3-7 0-0 0-3 4 2 9 Buechler 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Team Totals 240 32-76 5-12 10-44 17 19 73

FG FT Reb UTAH Min M-A M-A O-T A PF Pts Russell 43 3-12 0-0 1-7 1 3 8 Malone 43 9-19 5-6 2-10 6 4 23 Ostertag 22 2-4 1-4 2-4 0 4 5 Hornacek 39 5-11 2-3 0-3 2 1 13 Stockton 38 6-11 3-4 0-3 12 1 17 Eisley 10 1-3 4-4 0-2 2 1 6 Foster 23 2-2 0-0 0-5 0 4 4 Morris 13 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 1 0 Carr 7 1-2 0-0 0-2 0 0 2 Keefe 2 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 Team Totals 240 29-64 15-21 5-48 23 19 78

Chicago 16 24 16 17 - 73

Utah 21 14 21 22 - 78

3-Point goals-Chicago 4-19 (Kukoc 3-4, Pippen 1-4, Rodman 0-1, Harper 0-2, Jordan 0-4, Kerr 0-4), Utah 5-13 (Stockton 2-3, Russell 2-8, Hornacek 1-2). Technicals- Rodman, Pippen, Ostertag. A-19,911 (19,911).


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