Bulls Survive Mutiny : NBA playoffs: Angry Pippen sits during Kukoc’s winning shot as 104-102 victory trims Knicks’ lead to 2-1.
You want to see a fourth quarter? The Chicago Bulls will show you a fourth quarter.
Tired of being upstaged by the New York Knicks in the last period, the Bulls put on an exhibition that will be talked about for years, becoming the second team to blow a 20-point fourth-quarter lead in postseason, winning, 104-102, on Toni Kukoc’s 20-footer at the buzzer . . . . and then revealing top player Scottie Pippen had mutinied in the final huddle.
Pippen was not on the floor when the Bulls, having just given up the last of their lead, in-bounded the ball with :01.8 left, an unusual time to rest one’s leading scorer.
“Scottie Pippen was not involved in the final play,” Coach Phil Jackson said stonily after reducing the Knicks’ lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.
“He asked out of the play. I left him off the floor. That’s as much as I’ll talk about that and we have a practice tomorrow at 11.”
With that, Jackson left.
There were reports Pippen exploded when Jackson designed the play for Kukoc, cursed at Jackson and took himself out.
“Phil and I kind of exchanged some words,” Pippen said. “That was pretty much it.
“It wasn’t Phil taking me out of the game. We pretty much exchanged words and I took a seat. I think it was frustration.”
Except for that, it was a routine finish.
After blowing a 15-point lead at the end of Game 1 and an eight-point lead at the end of Game 2, the Bulls spent Friday night outdoing themselves, cruising into a 22-point lead late in the third quarter and giving that up.
It was 89-70 after three quarters, 90-70 after Kukoc made a free throw with 11:37 left in the game.
After that, however, the Bulls forgot to score.
The Knicks had outscored them, 28-15, in the fourth quarter of Game 1, 27-19 in the fourth quarter of Game 2, and went to work on them once more.
The Bulls didn’t make a shot until 36-year-old Bill Cartwright bounced in a jump hook with 6:39 left. By that time, the Knicks had closed to 90-83.
With 1:09 left, the Bulls were still clinging to a 102-96 lead when the Knicks mounted a last surge. Patrick Ewing, who would score 14 points in the quarter, made a layup and it was 102-98.
With 29 seconds left, he made another layup and it was 102-100.
The Bulls ran down the clock and gave the ball to Pippen, shooting three for 14 to that point in the three fourth quarters of the series, including one for four in this one.
Pippen couldn’t even get off a shot this time. Hounded by Anthony Mason, he started his move late, had to take a desperate three-pointer and hit nothing for a 24-second violation.
The Knicks got the ball with :05.5 left, called time and set up a play. Ewing wheeled into the lane and hit a seven-foot hook over Cartwright with :01.8 left to tie it.
All that remained for the Knicks was to get their hands up while Chicago missed the last shot, then carry their momentum into overtime and polish off the Bulls for a 3-0 chokehold lead in the series.
In the Bulls’ huddle, strange things were happening that might have been covered up, were it not for the candor of the principals.
Said Cartwright later when questioned about it: “Why are you asking me Scottie questions?”
Said B.J. Armstrong: “All I know is the play was called for Toni and I ran the play the way it was called. It was a good win for us. I just want to focus on the positive and go on to Sunday.”
Said Kukoc: “I think Scottie was hurt or something.”
Perhaps Pippen’s feelings were hurt when Jackson set the play up for Kukoc, but Scottie was ice cold and Toni had won three regular-season games with last-second shots.
Pete Myers inbounded the ball to Kukoc, fighting off Mason at the top of the circle. Mason was later criticized for letting Kukoc catch the ball, but he actually jostled him enough to flirt with a foul.
Kukoc caught the ball, turned, fired and scored.
“Easy,” Kukoc said, asked how he does it. “Shoot the ball and hope it’s going to go in.”
Said Riley: “Even when you know what they’re going to run, we’ve seen Kukoc do that two, three times. It was a great pass, a great catch and a great shot. He got a great look and it was over.
“That shot is a dagger in the heart, but you’ve got to weather it. This is the playoffs.”
The Knicks lead the series but have to figure out how to start the game the same time as the Bulls. Also, they might be without their starting point guard, Derek Harper, who engaged Chicago’s Jo Jo English in a wild second-quarter wrestling match, slinging English into the courtside seats, virtually in the lap of Commissioner David Stern sitting five rows back. Both benches emptied.
For their part, the Bulls have to figure out how to play the fourth quarter, not to mention when not to quit.
* ROCKETS WIN GAME 3: Vernon Maxwell scores 31 of his 34 points in the second half to lead Houston to its first victory in the best-of-seven series with Phoenix. C4