After winning only five of their first 11 games, the Chicago Bulls decided it was time to change tactics.
Almost since he entered the NBA, Michael Jordan had paced himself. Invariably, he started slowly and finished strongly.
The new idea was to have Jordan and the team come out flying. It has worked beyond expectations.
It worked to perfection Saturday night at Chicago. The Bulls scored a team-record 26 consecutive points, played superlative defense and led Cleveland, 36-5, after one quarter. They then coasted to a 116-98 victory.
They are 9-2 since Jordan started going all-out from the opening tipoff.
The Bulls’ first-quarter defense was one point shy of the NBA record. The Lakers set the mark in 1987 when they led Sacramento, 40-4, after the first 12 minutes.
A basket by Larry Nance of the Cavaliers tied the score, 2-2, after 62 seconds. The next time the Cavaliers scored, on John Morton’s short jumper, there was 2:42 left. Morton’s basket cut the lead to 28-4.
In the quarter, Chicago was 16 for 23 from the field and out-rebounded Cleveland, 18-6. The Cavaliers were only two for 18.
Although they rallied to score 93 points in the last three quarters, the Cavaliers lost their fifth in a row.
A major benefit of the Bulls’ attack at the start has been to give Jordan more rest. For instance, with this game well in hand, he played only 27 minutes but had 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists. In a 40-point romp over the Clippers Friday night, he played 30 minutes.
He might not win the scoring title, but he should be fresh for the playoffs.
“I really don’t care about another scoring title,” Jordan said. “I just like the way we’re able to get everyone into the game.
“This was amazing. We did everything right for 10 minutes and they did everything wrong.”
Boston 114, Miami 100--Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post refers to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish as the Celtics’ Geritol Three, but apparently they have found the Fountain of Youth.
One or the other of the old-timers has a big game almost every night. In this game at Miami, Parish had 23 points and 13 rebounds as the Celtics handed the Heat their seventh loss in a row.
Friday night it was McHale coming through for a victory over Detroit and often it is Bird who is the key scorer.
Their fourth victory in a row improved the Celtics’ record to 19-4. They lead the Atlantic Division by 3 1/2 games. They have won 15 of their last 17 and are 8-3 on the road.
“Robert Parish came out and set the tone,” Celtic Coach Chris Ford said. “He’s 37 years old and he still beats most players up and down the court.”
Parish played only 27 minutes. In the last nine games he has averaged 19.3 points.
Indiana 124, Utah 116--The Jazz had won six in a row and were 10-2 at home. Moreover, they were playing a team that had lost 11 games in a row on the road.
But Chuck Person scored 15 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter and the Pacers rallied to win after trailing, 100-94, with 7:42 left.
Two three-point baskets by Person and one by Reggie Miller helped the Pacers to 13 points in a row and the Jazz couldn’t catch up.
Utah has been winning because Jeff and Karl Malone have been scoring erratically. Karl had 33 in this game, but Jeff had only 14.
Houston 100, Charlotte 97--Akeem Olajuwon seemed somewhat interested Friday night when the Rockets were shocked at Washington.
He barely woke up in time at Charlotte to prevent back-to-back embarrassments.
Houston’s center made a layup with 37 seconds remaining to lift the Rockets to a 99-97 lead. The Rockets had blown a 21-point lead in the second half.
Olajuwon had 24 points and 11 rebounds.
Atlanta 125, Washington 113--After an emotional upset over Houston, the Bullets were a little flat for the Hawks at Atlanta.
John Battle came off the bench to score 28 points and spark the Hawks to their fourth consecutive victory.
Bernard King, who had only 13 points in the victory over the Rockets, led the Bullets with 29 points.
New York 125, New Jersey 104--Patrick Ewing scored 16 of his 31 points in the third quarter at East Rutherford, N.J., to lead the Knicks to their third victory in a row.
Ewing was the force behind a spurt during which the Knicks scored 21 consecutive points. The run, only a point short of the club record, began with the Knicks trailing, 73-67. They then held the Nets without a field goal for almost 11 minutes.
San Antonio 90, Minnesota 74--The Spurs limped into Minneapolis and limped out with their fifth victory in a row.
David Robinson, playing slightly sore, had 26 points and 17 rebounds. Terry Cummings, who has a hyper-extended left knee and a bruised kneecap, led the fourth-quarter rally that gave the Spurs their fourth victory in a row on the road.
Phoenix 142, Denver 134--The Suns love to have teams run with them. Their speed and depth almost always prevails.
Kevin Johnson allowed the Suns to keep up early at Denver and they wound up winning the high-scoring affair.
Jeff Hornacek had 28 points, Johnson 24 and both had eight assists. Orlando Woolridge had 22 points for Denver, eight below his average.
Seattle 106, Dallas 105--After their shocking victory at the Forum over the Lakers, the Mavericks have played well enough to win two more. They lost by two at Portland Friday night after a spirited rally.
In this one at Seattle, Sedale Threatt came off the bench to score 14 points in the second half, including the winning basket with seven seconds left.
Rodney McCray missed a driving hook shot with two seconds left that would have won it for the Mavericks.
Sacramento 117, Orlando 108--Their surprise victory over Portland Thursday night has given the Kings a lift.
Wayman Tisdale scored 36 points at Sacramento and the Kings pulled away in the closing minutes to win two in a row for the first time.