Jordan scored 30 points in 31 minutes Saturday night at Chicago to lead the Bulls to a hard-fought 102-97 win over Atlanta.
The victory put the Bulls just one-half game behind Cleveland in the fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The winner may be decided when the two teams meet at Richfield, Ohio, a week from today in the final game of the regular season. The prize is a chance to meet the mighty Boston Celtics in the first round.
It was the most minutes Jordan has played since returning from a 4 1/2-month layoff with a broken foot. The decision to give the star guard more playing time came after a complaint by Jordan and a meeting with Bull owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
Jordan was miffed because he was removed by Coach Stan Albeck with 30 seconds left Thursday night at Indianapolis with the Bulls and Pacers tied.
Jordan accused the club of not trying to make the playoffs.
Reinsdorf accepted the blame, explaining that he had been worried because in a previous game Jordan had played more than the 28 minutes that were supposed to be the maximum he was to play.
"I still want more playing time," Jordan told UPI. "Maybe these guys will come to their senses."
With Dominique Wilkins leading the way, the Hawks built a 65-50 lead in the third period before Jordan led a furious Chicago rally.
The Bulls finally caught up at 91-91 on two free throws by Orlando Woolridge and took the lead for good on two free throws by Charles Oakley with 2:28 left.
Jordan was 10 for 21 and had 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
Wilkins, making a strong bid for the scoring title, had 28 points.
Detroit 115, Indiana 106--Bill Laimbeer scored 28 points and had 22 rebounds at Indianapolis as the Pistons' playoff hopes continue to fade.
Laimbeer leads the NBA in rebounding with a 12.9 average and went over the 1,000-rebound mark for the third season in a row.
Although the Pacers have won 25 games, three more than last season, the fans are not happy. Dissatisfied fans were chanting, "Slick, Slick," a reference to former Pacers' coach Bobby Leonard.
It was the eighth loss in a row for the Pacers.
Seattle 111, Dallas 109--Tom Chambers scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter at Dallas, and Al Wood blocked Rolando Blackman's short jumper with one second left to preserve the victory for the SuperSonics.
Sacramento 119, Phoenix 100--Reggie Theus scored 21 points and had 18 assists at Sacramento to lead the Kings to the victory that assured them of a playoff berth.
Otis Thorpe came off the bench to score 10 points in a row in the second quarter to help the Kings build a 50-38 lead.
The Suns trailed only 54-52 at halftime before falling apart in the third quarter when they were outscored, 36-22. The Suns, who have five games remaining, trail San Antonio by two games in the battle for the last playoff berth in the West.
Utah 114, Portland 103--Adrian Dantley, making a determined bid for another scoring title, scored 12 of his 33 points in the final seven minutes at Salt Lake City. Dantley and Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins are in a virtual deadheat for the scoring lead.
Kiki Vandeweghe led all scorers with 34.