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Two Similar Teams, Except One Better Than the Other

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hooked on Sonics?

Try the Chicago Bulls instead. In many ways, they’re the same team as the Seattle SuperSonics, only better. How much better will be determined in a best-of-seven series with the NBA title on the line starting here Wednesday.

Call it Bulls vs. Bulls Lite.

Seattle has two stars, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Chicago has two superstars, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

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Seattle, known for its traps and presses, had one player voted by the league’s coaches first-team all-defense--Payton. Chicago, known for its pyrotechnics on offense but equally frightening without the ball, had three on the first team--Jordan, Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

Seattle set a franchise record during the regular season with 64 victories, 10th best in NBA history. Chicago set a franchise record with 72 victories, best in NBA history.

Seattle has a power forward, Kemp, who finished fifth in the league in rebounding. Chicago has a power forward, Rodman, who finished first in the league in rebounding.

Seattle finished tied for second in scoring. Chicago finished first.

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The teams split their previous meetings. On Nov. 26, the SuperSonics held the Bulls to 28 points in the second half and won, 97-92, at Key Arena as Kemp had 25 points and 14 rebounds, Payton 26 points and 11 assists, and Rodman was out because of a pulled calf muscle. On Jan. 10, the Bulls scored at least 28 points in both periods of the second half and won, 113-87, at Chicago with Jordan getting 35 points and 14 rebounds.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

THE MATCHUP

BULLS’ STARTING LINEUP *--*

F Scottie Pippen 6-7 228 F Dennis Rodman 6-8 220 C Luc Longley 7-2 292 G Ron Harper 6-6 216 G Michael Jordan 6-6 216

*--*

BULLS’ KEY RESERVES *--*

F-G Toni Kukoc 6-11 235 G Steve Kerr 6-3 181 F-G Jud Buechler 6-6 228

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*--*

SUPERSONICS’ STARTING LINEUP *--*

F Shawn Kemp 6-10 245 F Detlef Schrempf 6-10 235 C Ervin Johnson 6-11 245 G Hersey Hawkins 6-3 190 G Gary Payton 6-4 190

*--*

SUPERSONICS’ KEY RESERVES *--*

F-C Sam Perkins 6-9 255 F-G Nate McMillan 6-5 200 F-G Vincent Askew 6-6 235

*--*

FACTS AND FIGURES * Regular season record: Bulls 72-10, SuperSonics 64-18.

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* Leading scorers: Bulls--Michael Jordan, 30.4; Scottie Pippen, 19.4. SuperSonics--Shawn Kemp, 19.6; Gary Payton, 19.3.

* Leading playoff scorers: Bulls--Jordan, 32.3; Pippen, 17.6. SuperSonics--Payton, 21; Kemp, 19.9.

* Leading rebounders: Bulls--Dennis Rodman, 14.9; Jordan, 6.6. SuperSonics--Kemp, 11.4; Ervin Johnson, 5.3.

* Leading playoff rebounders: Bulls--Rodman, 13.3; Pippen, 8.7. SuperSonics--Kemp, 10.6; Detlef Schrempf, 5.

* Leading assists: Bulls--Pippen, 5.9; Jordan, 4.3. SuperSonics--Payton, 7.5; Schrempf, 4.4.

* Leading playoff assists: Bulls--Pippen, 6.3. SuperSonics--Payton, 6.7.

* Team defense: Bulls--92.9, tied for second. SuperSonics--96.7, eighth.

* Team offense: Bulls--105.2, first. SuperSonics 104.5, tied for second.

* Esoteric facts: Scottie Pippen goes against his former team--sort of. Pippen was drafted by the SuperSonics, fifth overall, in 1987, but then traded to the Bulls for Olden Polynice and draft picks. Polynice spent 3 1/2 years in Seattle before being dealt to the Clippers; Pippen has become a superstar. He was also almost traded to the SuperSonics a couple of years ago for Shawn Kemp, a deal that was about to go through before Seattle owner Barry Ackerley heard on talk shows that fans were against the move and pulled the plug. . . . This series is a showdown between two of the greatest coaches in Albany Patroons’ history, Phil Jackson and George Karl.

* Keys: Can the defensive player of the year, Payton, come close to slowing the offensive player of the millennium, Jordan? Or will Hersey Hawkins draw the short straw? Either way, Karl will send the Cavalry of double and even triple teams, but this is obviously the matchup of the series. Jordan made only six of 19 shots and had as many turnovers as assists, four, when the SuperSonics defeated the Bulls in November, but he made 14 of 25 shots and added 14 rebounds when the Bulls cruised in January. Beyond that, how will Seattle, with 6-4 Payton and 6-3 Hawkins, handle Chicago’s big backcourt of 6-6 Jordan and 6-6 Ron Harper? Nate McMillan is 6-5, but not nearly quick enough. Sounds like big minutes for Vincent Askew. And beyond that, and perhaps most pressing, how will Rodman square his loyalty to the Bulls with his allegiance to his beloved Pearl Jam, the band from Seattle?


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