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Bulls do whatever it takes

They keep teasing Phoenix. Making the regular-season's winningest team believe deep into the second halves of NBA Finals games there's a real chance for Suns success. But whatever Chicago needs to leave Phoenix in torment, the Bulls deliver.

In Game 1, the Bulls could see Charles Barkley wasn't hurting them, so Chicago's killers lost interest. They lollygagged away a 20-point lead before Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen re-awakened in the fourth quarter to put the Suns away.

In Game 2, Barkley did a flip-flop; instead of Mr. Hyde the patsy, he became Dr. Jekyll the extraordinary. Barkley scored 42 points. Phoenix, despite continuing to get nil from celebrated point guard Kevin Johnson, was seriously threatening Chicago's back-to-back NBA champs.

When the Bulls face a crisis, they don't dial 911. First call goes to 23. Then, when backup is needed, Chicago summons 33. Jordan, then Pippen.

Whatever it takes.

"What the public notices is all the TV highlights and spectacular runaway dunks by Jordan and Pippen," Suns guard Danny Ainge said. "But what impresses me most is the defensive tandem of Michael and Scottie.

"I've been around the NBA for 11 seasons, and no other team has ever fielded two such effective outside defensive people playing side by side. Michael and Scottie are quicker than card sharks and have arms longer than garden hoses."

In the climactic minutes of Game 2, Barkley couldn't make a dazzling basket without Jordan coming up with a matcher. Both eventually tired from the gasping pace. Johnson did something wise. He asked Bulls coach Phil Jackson for a three-minute rest.

When No. 23 returned, the exhausted Suns couldn't contend with Jordan's blurring speed or prodigious leaps when launching shots. Jordan finished with 42 points, a standoff with Barkley.

Calling No. 33 Ainge, who knows better, made a deadly decision. He attempted a one-on-one challenge of the Pippen-Jordan defensive wall. With 26 seconds to go Friday night in Phoenix, the Suns were just a three-point bazooka from taking the Bulls into overtime.

Ainge cocked, leaped and fired. But as is Bulls playoff habit, there was a resounding answer. Pippen raised a "garden hose" to blow away Ainge's shot.

Chicago won Game 2, too.

"I should've pump-faked Scottie," Ainge said. "He's two inches taller than me at 6-7, and a much better jumper. But why is it, when the game is really on the line, Chicago almost always has the answer? Wait, I think I can reply to my own question.

"Back when I played with Boston, with Larry Bird and Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, the Celtics had this special attitude _ this look in their eyes _ and we really believed nobody had the right to beat us out of the NBA championship.

"I see the same thing in the eyes of Jordan, Pippen and most of the veteran Bulls. That in no way means my Phoenix team is giving in or giving up. We also believe in ourselves. But when you're like the Bulls, and have won a couple of championships, and know you're deep in talent and experience, it's a huge advantage.

"Chicago has all that going."

Never in NBA playoff history has a finalist seemed in such a futile state after two games. Chicago is the first NBA finalist to go 2-0 on the road. Now that the Bulls are home at Chicago Stadium, it will be stunning if Phoenix wins just once. If the Bulls were to lose twice at home, it would be a new call for investigation of Jordan's gambling habits.

Nobody expects that. Probably not even the Phoenix Suns. What we should expect is more of the same. Barkley playing well most of the time, but still not getting mandatory help from the psyched-out K.J. Jordan playing great when the Bulls need him most.

Expect a 4-0 Chicago sweep or at least a 4-1 romp. Whatever it takes, the Bulls seem to have it, whether it's done by 23 or 33 or any of the other winning Chicago numbers.