NBA FINALS : LAKERS vs. CHICAGO BULLS : Bulls’ Decree: Jordan Rules : Game 5: Chicago wins first championship by sweeping at Forum, 108-101, but depleted Lakers go down fighting.
The Lakers went neither easily nor quietly, but go they did.
Their rookies led them in an inspired last hurrah Wednesday night, but the race is still to the swiftest. The Bulls ran them down in the fourth quarter and won, 108-101, capturing their first NBA title, four games to one.
The Lakers were without James Worthy and Byron Scott, bumping Elden Campbell and Tony Smith up into the rotation. The rookies who had played a total of eight minutes in the series combined for 33 points, shooting 14 for 18.
“I just told them to have some fun,” Magic Johnson said. “Go back to when you were in high school and you had a big game. . . . Go out and play hard and have some fun.
“We just didn’t have quite enough fun, like they (the Bulls) are having now.”
Let’s just say nobody was expecting a lot from the Lakers Wednesday.
Chicago aldermen were already arguing about the route of the victory parade.
A staffer from the Chicago Sun-Times brought an advance copy of today’s edition into the Bull locker room before the game. It was headlined “Bulls Win It.” He got Michael Jordan to sign it, but not before Jordan asked him not to let Johnson see it.
And NBC’s Bob Costas, signing on the air next to the championship trophy, said, “All indications are by the end of the evening, this will belong to the Chicago Bulls.”
It does, indeed, but it took all indications and all night to finish the Lakers.
The game was electric from the start, with the Forum crowd standing and cheering wildly--before the opening tip. This crowd has never been called the NBA’s loudest, just the highest paying, but Wednesday Laker fans came ready.
So did what remained of their Lakers.
They played the Bulls even all night, leading, 93-90, with 6:35 left in thegame when Campbell dunked Johnson’s lob with Cliff Levingston hanging all over him. But Campbell, fouled on the play, missed the free throw and moments later, Scottie Pippen knocked down a three-pointer and there went the last Laker lead.
With 3:54 left, John Paxson hit a 19-footer and the Bulls led, 95-93.
Sam Perkins, hero of the Laker postseason, wide open at the free-throw line, missed, only grazing the front rim.
The Bulls ran with the rebound and Paxson drilled an 18-footer.
Perkins missed a three-pointer. The Bulls ran again--you wonder what the Lakers must have looked like to their foes in the ‘80s?--and Paxson scored on a layup.
After that for the Bulls, it was just a matter of protecting the lead and claiming their title.
For the Lakers, swept in the Forum, it was the start of the post-mortem season.
“This has been a remarkable season for us,” Johnson said. “This is something we can build on for next season. Nobody expected us to be here. Nobody expected us to do what we did.”
Johnson, so weary he sat out practice Tuesday, forcing Mike Dunleavy to take his place so they could have 10 men, went 48 minutes Wednesday.
As a concession to the pressure the Bulls were putting on him, Dunleavy let Johnson wait at the offensive end when the Bulls shot free throws, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to, and had other Lakers bring the ball upcourt.
Johnson shot only two for six but finished with his last triple-double of the postseason: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 20 assists. That on-court class he had been running for Vlade Divac all season added another pupil--Campbell--and more instruction can be expected next season as Elden gets more minutes.
“Our rookies were outstanding,” Johnson said later. “Elden was great. Tony--the guys wanted to be in there and show the rest of the world and Coach Dunleavy they might want a few more minutes next year.”
So much for silver linings.
“We really believed we could win,” Dunleavy said. “To not win is a disappointment.
“The only what-if I would have liked to have is if we’d have had a 100% healthy James Worthy, because he’s so important to the things we try to do offensively. By him running the floor, putting pressure on the defense to get back on him, lots of times that opens it up for Byron to get his spot-up jumpers.
“And the times when they pressured us, James Worthy is the guy in the middle you go to to attack. But he couldn’t catch it and attack off the dribble the way he had been against all the other teams.”
The other side of it, as Dunleavy likes to say, the Lakers did reach the NBA finals.
At the end of the game, Bull fan Spike Lee, sitting in the $475 western courtside seats, pointed at Laker fan Jack Nicholson, in his customary seat on the east side. Nicholson, who has taunted whole stadiums, turned his palms up.
The 1990-91 season was history.