NBA ROUNDUP : Armstrong Airs It Out for the Bulls, 86-78

From Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls usually turn to Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen in the final minutes of close games.

But the Bulls are the defending NBA champions because they also get production from a talented cast of role players.

Guard B.J. Armstrong demonstrated his value Thursday night at Chicago. The former Iowa standout scored six consecutive points down the stretch to help give the Bulls an 86-78 victory over the New York Knicks to even their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1-1.

Jordan scored 27 points but only six in the second half. He missed three of four free throws in the final minutes before Armstrong made two shots and two free throws with 19.2 seconds to play.

"You don't know when the opportunity will come, but you have to answer the call," said Armstrong, who finished with 18 points. "We worked hard for a 12-point advantage and you don't want to let it go on your home court. We have a lot of pride."

Jordan was happy with the victory but displeased with his performance.

"I felt good physically but disappointed with the way I finished the game," Jordan said. "I was totally out of sync in the second half. I wasn't there when the team needed me.

"But I'm very happy other players like B.J. covered up my mistakes down the stretch."

The Bulls had a 12-point lead early in the final quarter when the Knicks rallied behind Patrick Ewing, who scored 34 points in the Knicks' series-opening 94-89 victory. On Thursday, Ewing was held to four points for three quarters. He finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

"We didn't execute offensively and we had too many turnovers," Ewing said. "I'm disappointed because it was a game we could have easily won. They turned up the heat and we had too many turnovers."

Ewing scored the Knicks' final points with 2:04 left to pull them to 79-78.

But Armstrong scored the next six points before Jordan's free throw finished it.

"We had a great opportunity to win this game, but we couldn't convert or execute the last two or three minutes," Knick Coach Pat Riley said. "The pressure was out there tonight, but we just didn't handle it."

Pippen made only two of 12 shots for the Bulls, who travel to New York for games Saturday afternoon and Sunday night.

Xavier McDaniel scored 15 points for the Knicks.

Portland 126, Phoenix 119--Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter each scored 27 points at Portland as the Trail Blazers pulled away in the final quarter to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

Drexler also had 13 assists and eight rebounds. Porter, who had 31 points in the Trail Blazers' 113-111 victory in the series opener, scored 12 in the fourth quarter.

The Trail Blazers, who led by 19 points after the first quarter, withstood a third-quarter scoring surge by Kevin Johnson. The Suns' playmaker, who had only two points by halftime, scored 18 consecutive points during one stretch and had 22 in the quarter. He finished with 35 points and made all 16 of his free throws in the second half.

Portland took the lead for good in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Johnson was on the bench for a two-minute rest.

Porter and Jerome Kersey, who scored 25 points, each scored five points as the Trail Blazers broke an 88-88 tie with a 10-4 run.

Cedric Ceballos scored 20 points and Dan Majerle had 19 for the Suns, who return home for Game 3 of the best-of-seven series Saturday.

Jeff Hornacek made only three of 10 shots and had 11 rebounds.

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