In a brilliant 48-minute display of what this series was supposed to be about, the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA championship Wednesday night with a thrilling 108-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Bulls, who captured the best-of-seven series four-games-to-one, won three straight at the Great Western Forum to cap the franchise's 25th anniversary in grand fashion.
For the Lakers, it was the first time they scored more than 100 points against Chicago, which played outstanding defense all series long.
Neither team led by more than three points from late in the third quarter until the final minutes of play.
The Bulls, sparked as always by Michael Jordan, also turned to forward Scottie Pippen for support. Pippen responded with his best game of the series, scoring 31 points.
Also, guard John Paxson, shooting better than 60 percent in the finals, scored six consecutive points to give Chicago a 99-93 lead with less than three minutes to play.
Paxson sandwiched two baskets around a Jordan bucket, then hit another jumper to make it 103-96.
The Lakers, playing without two starters, were unable to recover. But they gave their most inspired effort of the series.
The Lakers had one final chance when Sam Perkins converted a three-point play with 1:13 left. But Paxson, the Bulls' hottest shooter in the final period, nailed another jumper for a 105-101 lead, and the Lakers never threatened again.
Already counted out in the suddenly one-sided series, the Lakers, with nothing to lose, opened aggressively _ and never let up.
Little-used Terry Teagle and A.C. Green started for injured regulars Byron Scott and James Worthy, who both watched the game in street clothes. Their presence was hardly missed in the first half.
Teagle, averaging 4.0 points and shooting 20 percent in the finals, scored nine quick points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Green, a superior defender to Worthy, injected the Lakers with hustle and enthusiasm not seen the entire series. A fair-to-middling offensive threat, Green beat the Chicago press downcourt for a one-handed stuff shot early in the second quarter.
The Bulls, however, led 27-25 after one quarter. Increasing the defensive tempo, Chicago picked up the Lakers the full 94 feet and forced six turnovers.
Trailing 23-19, the Bulls rallied behind steals and length-of-the-court layups from Jordan and Pippen.
The Bulls appeared to have the Lakers right where they wanted them. With Worthy and Scott out, Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy was forced to play rookies Tony Smith and Elden Campbell, who totaled two points and eight minutes in the four previous games.
Campbell, however, dropped in 10 of his 13 points in the second period to lead all players. He shot 6-of-8 from the floor.
Smith, was just as effective, going 3-of-3 for six points and helping Magic Johnson (10 first-half assists) with the ball-handling duties.
The Lakers, who shot 36 percent in Game 4, hit 50 percent from the floor in the first half Wednesday. More importantly, they featured balanced scoring as five players had at least six points.
For the Bulls, Jordan, as usual, was the leading point-maker with 12. Pippen added 11 points and Horace Grant had eight. The Bulls shot only 44.7 percent from the floor, but they hit 13-of-16 foul shots.
The first half ended in exciting fashion. Lakers center Vlade Divac grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled the length of the floor for an apparent layup, but the horn sounded before Divac released the shot, so the basket did not count. However, the sequence typified the Lakers' aggressive playing style.
But the Bulls have dominated the series by taking control of the third quarter. Hitting 10 of their first 11 shots, Chicago took a 70-62 lead, and appeared in excellent shape when Teagle picked up his fourth foul trying to guard Jordan.
Instead, the Lakers countered with two straight three-point baskets by Johnson and Sam Perkins _ LA's first three-pointers since Game 2.
The Lakers pulled within 73-72 _ capping a 10-3 run _ when Smith, Teagle's replacement, gathered in a long pass from Johnson and converted a three-point play.
The normally sedate sellout crowd was pumped for the first time since the series moved to L.A. During a timeout, a fan made a halfcourt shot and won $57,000. The cheering and stomping continued when the teams retook the court.
They were rewarded with classic basketball, the best extended stretch of play at both ends since the series started.
Game Min Ast Pts
5 48 10 30
4 44 13 28
3 52 9 29
2 36 13 33
1 40 12 36