The Chicago Bulls, playing with their backs to the wall for the first time in the playoffs, routed the Los Angeles Lakers 107-86 Wednesday night at Chicago Stadium to even the NBA Finals at 1-1. Game 3 of the best-of-seven championship series is Friday night at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles.
The win was vital for Chicago. No team had ever come back to win the title after losing the first two games at home.
Breaking open a close game early in the second half, the Bulls shot 85 percent in the third period, outscoring the Lakers 38-26 while playing fastbreak basketball for the first time in the series.
Bulls guard Michael Jordan typified the turnaround with a brilliant move in the fourth period, faking with his right hand and scooping in a left-hand layup for a 97-71 lead. Jordan scored a game-high 33 points and shot 15-of-18 from the floor.
Key stat of the game: All five Chicago starters scored in double figures after only two Bulls managed double digits in Game 1.
If the opening quarter was a litmus test for the rest of the series _ signaling a potential sweep for the Lakers, or a Chicago comeback _ the Bulls passed it, hands down.
Jordan, who criticized his teammates for a lack of offensive support in Game 1, gave them another chance. With Jordan curtailing his shot selection, the Bulls took a quick 14-9 lead.
The Bulls led by as many as eight points (26-18) as Horace Grant (10 points) and Bill Cartwright (8) totaled more points in one quarter than they did in Sunday's game.
But the Lakers, stubbornly clinging to their milk-the-shot-clock philosophy, pulled within 28-23 at the end of the period and took a 35-34 lead with 4:54 left in the first half.
The Lakers' first lead since early in the game was made possible when Magic Johnson coaxed the double-team from the Bulls' defense, and slipped the ball inside to center Vlade Divac, who dunked.
Divac, who led the Lakers with 12 first-half points, was a constant thorn to Chicago. His second dunk within a minute made it 37-36, Lakers, only seconds after Chicago's Grant fumbled a potentiallayup out of bounds.
But the Bulls, facing a do-or-die predicament in the second game of the series, did the obvious, and simply let Jordan take over the game.
Jordan, who scored a single field goal in the first period, scored eight straight points to carry the Bulls to a 48-43 halftime lead.
With teammate Scottie Pippen presenting Johnson with furious defensive pressure, Jordan began to play the passing lanes more. Jordan's steal-and-slam came in the middle of a scoring spree in which Jordan scored four baskets in less than two minutes.
Chicago was the more aggressive team in the first half, and it showed in many ways. Playing a more-wide open transition game and constantly locating the open man, the Bulls shot 57.5 percent from the floor (23-of-40) and passed out 18 assists. Grant led all players with 14 points, and Jordan had 10.
The Lakers, meanwhile, were merely counter-punching with the Bulls. The Lakers answered every Chicago offensive thrust spurt with a timeout or set play designed to put a player on the foul line and halt the Bulls' momentum.
Forward James Worthy, still playing effective ball despite a badly sprained left ankle, had 10 first-half points to go with Divac's 12.