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Bulls top Lakers in OT 104-96

The Chicago Bulls regained the homecourt advantage over the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals Friday night with a gritty 104-96 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Chicago leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 2 is Sunday at the Great Western Forum.

The Bulls rallied from a 13-point deficit (67-54) in the third quarter, then went ahead 88-84 with 3:06 left in regulation.

However, the Lakers rallied as center Vlade Divac converted a three-point play with 10.9 seconds left. The Bulls' Michael Jordan sent the game into overtime when he hit a jumper with 3.4 seconds left.

In the overtime, Jordan hit two quick baskets, the second one giving the Bulls a 98-96 lead. The Lakers never recovered.

Despite the Lakers' vow to come out more aggressively and take the play right at the Bulls, the first half was shaped from the same cookie-cutter mold as the previous two games.

With one slight difference. The score was close at halftime (48-47), played at the Lakers' pace, but the Bulls accomplished something very important. They kept the ball from point guard Magic Johnson, particularly in the second quarter, and the Lakers offense sputtered.

The score was tied 25-25 after one quarter, as Jordan led the Bulls with 11 points and James Worthy added 10 points for the Lakers.

Of the two teams, the Bulls had to feel extremely pleased with themselves. The Lakers shot 10-of-14 in the first quarter (71.4 percent), yet the Bulls were holding their own on the Lakers' homecourt.

Guard John Paxson, who drilled all eight shots in the Bulls' Game 2 victory, hit his first two attempts in the first quarter. Forward Horace Grant used his quickness to continually beat the defense for layups.

The second quarter appeared to be shifting the Lakers' way until the Bulls turned up the defensive pressure. The Bulls quickly erased a 39-35 deficit and took a 43-39 lead to complete an 8-0 run.

Featured in the sequence was Jordan forcing a 10-second call against center Divac. The Bulls also converted a steal and a block by reserve forward Cliff Levingston into four quick points.

Both teams continued their brilliant shooting, despite the excellent defense being played. The teams shot an identical 54.1 percent in the half (20-of-37).

Jordan led the Bulls with 15 points and Grant added 14. For the Lakers, Worthy had 15 and Johnson 13.

And then history repeated itself.

Just as the Bulls won Game 2 with incredible shooting in the third period, the Lakers exploded out of the blocks at the start of the second half.

Surprisingly, the Lakers rallied after a great hustle play by Jordan. Jordan, driving to the basket against Sam Perkins, missed a layup but recovered in time to dunk the ball home between two defenders.

Trailing 52-49, the Lakers scored six straight points for a 55-52 lead. Then, after the Bulls made it 55-54, the Lakers ran off 12 unanswered points for a 67-54 lead.

Helping the Lakers complete an 18-2 run, Divac went 6-of-6 from the floor for 12 points, most of them coming against Jordan, a guard, who defended Divac effectively in Game 2.

While Divac was dominating the low post, Johnson was outplaying Scottie Pippen, who limited Johnson to 4-of-13 shooting Wednesday night. Johnson returned to his normal playmaking self, passing the ball to Divac's favored spots. Additionally, Perkins posted up effectively and scored 11 points.

Still, despite Jordan shooting 1-of-7 from the floor, the Bulls ran off an 8-2 spurt to pull within 72-66 at the end of the period. And Craig Hodges hit a jumper to chop the deficit to 74-70 with 10 minutes left.