Pistons Turn Up Throttle Against Half-Speed Jordan
The Chicago Bulls played well for about a quarter, and today you wouldn’t even give that much for their chances.
True, the Bulls didn’t cash out early Tuesday night, a very real possibility after falling behind by 15 points in the first quarter and 17 in the second. They even led briefly in the third quarter. But that doesn’t change the bottom line: a 102-93 loss to the Detroit Pistons before 21,454 at the Palace of Auburn Hills and an 0-2 deficit in the Eastern Conference finals.
Making that up isn’t like the national debt, but the way the Pistons are playing, it might as well be. Even Joe Dumars couldn’t be slowed when his stomach knotted up without warning at halftime, though not from tension.
“It’s too late to be nervous now,” he said after scoring a game-high 31 points.
Unless you’re the Bulls. With Games 3 and 4 in Chicago Saturday and Monday, the Pistons have beaten them in 16 of the last 19 meetings. Detroit is also 24-3 in the playoffs the last two seasons, including a current streak of 16-1.
Michael Jordan scored only 20 points and was just five of 16 from the field. He was slowed but not limping, the bruised hip having improved, but this time his wrist, injured in the same Game 1 fall, caused problems. That and the Piston defense.
That wasn’t even the embarrassing part. Would you believe Jordan having the ball stolen near midcourt in the second quarter by Scott Hastings, he of one game and five minutes in the playoffs?
“I can beat my father and my stepfather, so I’m not the slowest man in America,” Hastings said afterward. “But Bob Hayes doesn’t have anything to worry about.”
Hastings’ run to glory, which he couldn’t convert into a basket, came during the Detroit downpour. The Pistons, who held Chicago to 18 points in the first quarter, this after 17 and 17 in the last two Sunday, got a Mark Aguirre layup moments later for a 41-24 advantage.
Other Chicago indignities followed. Having cut the lead to 13, 45-32, the Bulls had 7-foot-1 Bill Cartwright posted up against the 6-6 Aguirre. Cartwright got the ball, but also an offensive foul after backing in too hard. The Pistons converted that into another basket.
By halftime, the Bulls, having shot 35.3% and with Jordan contributing only seven points on two-of-seven shooting, trailed, 53-38.
“You could see he didn’t have any rotation on his shots,” Chicago Coach Phil Jackson said of Jordan. “It looked like a shotput.”
During the break, as Dumars took antacid for his stomach, the Bulls must have been mixing an elixir of their own. They cut into the lead from the start of the third quarter, getting it to six, 57-51, when Jordan connected from the left corner with 7:37 left. The Pistons, shell-shocked, called timeout.
It didn’t help. When Scottie Pippen converted a three-point shot with 5:46 to play, Chicago was within 61-58. Jordan’s jumper 38 seconds later, and the Bulls were down one. They tied it at 62 with 4:29 remaining and, finally, took their first lead of the game when Craig Hodges made good on a three-point attempt from the right corner. With 3:35 left in the third, it was 67-66.
“I don’t think we were worried that we let it (the big lead) slip away,” Dumars said. “But we were disappointed because we didn’t take advantage of the good opportunity.”
Still, Chicago, which shot 55% (12 of 22) in the quarter, trailed heading into the fourth, 74-69. The Bulls stayed as close as six late--95-89 with 2:07 remaining--but the Pistons held on.
“We came into halftime thinking the game was over,” Hastings said. “Luckily, we have guys capable of picking it back up.”
Said Jackson: “For 14 minutes we played pretty good basketball. But other than that, we didn’t have the poise and character we showed this season.”
Jordan didn’t stick around afterward. His teammates should have been so lucky that it had something to do with injuries.
“He didn’t mention names, he was just so disappointed,” Bull forward Horace Grant said. “I can’t blame him. Some guys don’t know what the playoffs are all about. The guys know who they are. They’ve got to step up. They’ve got to get more physical. We’ve got to step up and be the aggressors.
“We didn’t have any bench play. We’ve got to try and regroup and see what we have to do. I’ve never seen Michael that upset.”
Mike Schuler, an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, is expected in Los Angeles today for his second interview regarding the Clippers’ coaching vacancy. Schuler, a former coach of the year at Portland, and Mike Fratello are the leading candidates for the job, although General Manager Elgin Baylor said another person, whom he refuses to name, is being considered. The only timetable the Clippers have set for naming a new coach is before the June 27 draft.
Detroit’s James Edwards was ejected with 8:24 left in the game after slapping Ed Nealy when the two got tangled under the basket. The league may decide to add a suspension. . . . Chicago Coach Phil Jackson on Michael Jordan’s lack of quickness: “It was pretty obvious when Vinnie Johnson beat him on the dribble at the end of the game.”