Sports

In Sickness And In Health Ailing Jordan Puts Away Jazz

Michael Jordan was all but staggering, a pained look in his bloodshot eyes from an energy-sapping virus. And still he played on. That is what the greatest do.

In Jordan’s storied career, the 38 points he scored Wednesday night in the Delta Center, giving the Bulls a 90-88 win and a commanding three-games-to-two lead in this best-of-7 NBA Finals, will rank as a triumph of will over pain, of insurmountable desire over a body that was telling him to quit.

“I wanted it really bad,” Jordan said. “At halftime, I told (coach) Phil (Jackson) to use me in spurts. But I wanted it really bad.”

Before the game there was a question whether Jordan could even play.

“I’ve played with Michael for many years, and I’ve never seen him as sick, to the point where I didn’t think he could put his uniform on,” said teammate Scottie Pippen, who would miss 12 of 17 shots.

At Wednesday morning’s shoot-around, Jackson had talked about winning without Jordan, who awakened feeling nauseous and dizzy.

“There was no question we were concerned about him being able to play,” Jackson said. “He hadn’t gotten out of bed all day. Just standing up was an effort; he got nauseous and had dizzy spells.”

Jordan played 44 minutes. He scored 15 points in the crucial fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining to seal the Bulls’ win.

“It’s amazing what some people can do under situations like that,” said center Luc Longley. “We were talking about stepping up and filling Michael’s shoes, and he turns around and plays the best game of the lot.” Going for their fifth championship in seven seasons, the Bulls, and particularly Jordan, probably put a fatal stake through Utah’s hopes Wednesday night. The win broke a 23-game Utah home streak and was the first loss by the Jazz at home in the playoffs.

The series returns to Chicago on Friday. Utah would have to win back-to-back in the Bulls’ United Center to win their first championship. No team has ever been down 3-2 and won two games on the road.

“I don’t want to get overconfident, but it is good going home,” said Pippen. “But I think they’re a little bit desperate.”

The Utah Jazz will blame themselves. They were strong early, took a commanding 16-point lead, blew it, came back to take another lead and blew that as well. They opened the door for the Bulls, knowing that if Chicago walked through, these NBA Finals were all but over.

“Is it going to be tough? Absolutely,” said Utah’s Karl Malone, who was in early foul trouble and wound up scoring a disappointing 19 points. “I’m not going to lie to you. Losing games like this takes something out of you. But we’re going back to Chicago. We go on.”

As do the Bulls.

“The effort he put out today was a great example of leadership,” Pippen said of Jordan. “He was dehydrated, feeling like he was going to pass out…. He’s definitely the greatest and the MVP in my mind.”

Still, the issue was in doubt until the final 25 seconds, when Jordan closed the deal by nailing the decisive 3-pointer.

Standing at the free-throw line, his team down one with 46 seconds remaining, Jordan hit his first foul shot, missed his second, but found his own rebound. He then stepped up and, with Utah’s John Stockton diving at him, hit a killing 3-pointer.

By the end of the third quarter, the Jazz had fought off a 6-0 Bulls run, in which Utah missed five consecutive shots, to mount their own run. The Bulls’ early sway was courtesy of their domination of the offensive glass, but when Dennis Rodman went to the bench with his fifth foul, the Jazz turned the tables.

Jordan sat for his usual third-quarter rest, but it was obvious that whatever his physical problems were, they were taking a lot out of him. The third quarter ended with Utah up, 72-67, and the question was whether Jordan had much left.

The first half was a study in contrasts. The Jazz dominated the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-point lead. Then the Bulls came back on a 13-point second-quarter surge by Jordan to close to within four at the half.

The game had started with the Jazz jumping on the Bulls, looking as if they were going to uncap their energy, harness it with the energy of the crowd and blow the Bulls out of the Delta Center.

With the Bulls hitting only five of their first 15 shots and turning the ball over five times in the first 12 minutes, the Jazz were riding a wave. They closed the first quarter leading 29-16 after getting nine points from Malone and five each from Greg Ostertag and Greg Foster.

But Chicago did not stay cool in the second quarter, and hit 11 of its next 22 shots. And it was Jordan who made most of the difference.

Bulls 90, Jazz 88

CHICAGO (90)

REB

Min FG FT O/T A PF Pts Pippen 45 5-17 7-9 2-10 5 4 17 Rodman 23 1-1 0-2 1-7 1 6 2 Longley 26 6-7 0-1 1-4 2 1 12 Jordan 44 13-27 10-12 2-7 5 3 38 Harper 24 2-4 0-0 1-4 1 3 5 Williams 23 2-8 3-6 1-4 0 2 7 Kerr 24 0-3 0-0 0-2 1 1 0 Kukoc 24 3-5 0-0 2-4 2 2 9 Buechler 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 Caffey 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 Team 7 Totals 240 32-72 20-30 10-42 17 25 90

UTAH (88)

REB

Min FG FT O/T A PF Pts Russell 40 4-10 0-0 2-7 1 2 11 Malone 34 7-17 5-9 1-7 6 5 19 Ostertag 34 5-8 3-4 7-15 0 3 13 Hornacek 29 2-11 2-3 1-5 2 4 7 Stockton 36 5-10 2-3 2-3 5 3 13 Anderson 13 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 Eisley 12 1-3 0-0 0-0 4 0 2 Morris 14 4-7 0-0 0-2 0 0 11 Foster 16 0-3 6-6 0-6 1 3 6 Carr 11 2-4 0-0 0-0 2 3 4 Keefe 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Team 7 Totals 240 31-75 18-25 13-45 21 25 88

Chicago 16 33 18 23 - 90

Utah 29 24 19 16 - 88

3-point goals-Chicago 6-15 (Kukoc 3-4, Jordan 2-5, Harper 1-1, Kerr 0-2, Pippen 0-3), Utah 8-19 (Russell 3-5, Morris 3-5, Hornacek 1-4, Stockton 1-4, Malone 0-1). Technicals- Williams, Kerr, Stockton. A-19,911.

This sidebar appeared with the story: STOCK REPORT

A quick glance at Spokane’s John Stockton at the NBA Finals.

Pts Ast Reb Sti Game 5 13 5 3 1 Ave. 14.4 9.6 3.6 2.2

“Winning this game would have put us in pretty good position to close this series out. Now our backs are to the wall.”

John Stockton



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