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One-man gang comes up short

It was merely a matter of semantics, but Horace Grant said it best, probably without even realizing it. "When his teammates are not hitting the shots, he had to take the bull by the horns and take control," said Grant, one of those teammates.

What Michael Jordan had to do Sunday was take the Bulls by the horns.

Jordan took everything else that really mattered, like most of the big shots. Thirty-six points in all and 13 in the fourth quarter for the Chicago Bulls, who continue to insist they are not a one-man gang.

Jordan may have missed go-ahead and winning shots on the last two possessions by the Bulls in their 93-91 loss to the Lakers at Chicago Stadium, but he put them in position to win. In one stretch, he scored 13 of 17 Chicago's points.

He was working under additional pressure, too, more than usually comes with being the main focus of the opponent's defense. Jordan, guarding Magic Johnson, got his fifth foul with 5:31 to play, but did not leave the game.

"It limits you on what you can do defensively _ running and trapping, gambling," Jordan said. "And I got my fouls quickly (three within 6{ minutes at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth). When I got the fouls, I couldn't take any chances."

Those were his concerns on defense. On offense, he had to contend with a couple of factors. In purple and gold, there were the Los Angeles Lakers. In orange, the rim.

The rim in front of the visitor's bench at Chicago Stadium has gained a reputation with the Bulls. They say that the rim Jordan was shooting at during the fourth quarter is unforgiving. The shots have to hit softly; rattle around, and it's trouble.

"It was a good shot," Scottie Pippen, with 19 points the only other Bull to reach double figures, said of Jordan's final attempt.

"I'm not saying the basket needs adjusting or anything, but if I had the opportunity, I'd rather shoot at the basket in front of our bench."

Said Grant with a smile: "We're going to take it down. That was supposed to go in. No, actually, it was a good shot that just didn't fall.

"That's a cop-out," he said of the rim's reputation. "Nine out of 10 times, Michael is going to make that shot, whether it's straight, crooked or whatever."

What was the Lakers' strategy while preparing to face Jordan for the first time since Feb. 3?

"So much is made of the Jordan Rules and all that stuff," said Randy Pfund, the Laker assistant who works closest with the defense. "We don't want it complicated at all. We just try to keep him in front of us at all times. And we don't want to get up and challenge him too much. It would be like a shark looking at meat."

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