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Ex-referee Strom cries foul on officiating in Game 3

Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the Phoenix Suns' triple-overtime victory over Chicago in Game 3 of the NBA Finals was that the hometown Bulls attempted only nine free throws in the 63-minute marathon.

Even more surprising is that the Bulls did not scream "foul!" against the officiating crew of Darell Garretson, Mike Mathis and Dick Bavetta. The Suns converted 22 of 31 free-throw attempts; the Bulls were 6-of-9.

Said Michael Jordan, who took only six free throws despite attempting 43 shots from the field: "I think everybody would admit there was more than nine fouls out there. There was a lot of slapping and elbowing, but I certainly don't want to get fined for rapping the officials.

"Even though we didn't get to the line, we had a lot of opportunities to win. We can't dictate the calls. You have to play above that, and we didn't."

A man far more critical of the officiating was former NBA referee Earl Strom, who has been writing a daily column during the championship series for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Strom, a longtime needler of Garretson, now the league's head referee, said, "When Garretson works, the other referees are so intimidated, they fall in line.

"I thought Mathis worked a good game despite Garretson, but Bavetta is so afraid of Garretson, he's intimidated. Whenever he works, Garretson sets the tone, and Bavetta is scared to death of him."

Jordan picks up the tab

Charles Barkley put away a plate of ribs at Jordan's restaurant after Sunday's triple-overtime classic, accompanied by the restaurateur himself.

"He paid for everything," Barkley said. "He's a good friend. He's a good host."

The two stars still have not played golf together during the series, however. The ruptured bursa sac in Barkley's elbow has him on the shelf.

"I want to play golf today," he said Monday, "but the doctor won't let me."

Pippen learns lesson

Bulls forward Scottie Pippen, a big contributor to the Bulls' two victories in Phoenix, barely missed a second consecutive triple-double in Game 3. He finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

But the All-Star forward, experiencing leg problems, had obvious difficulties shooting the ball. He missed 23 of his 35 shots and tossed up several air balls.

"That's never happened to me before," said Pippen. "My legs started tightening up, and it really took its toll in overtime (he scored only two points). Basically, I didn't drink enough fluids, but I've learned from it."

TV success

Sunday night's NBA Finals triple-overtime game between Chicago and Phoenix got a 19.6 overnight rating, up 33 percent from the rating for Game 3 last year.

The rating was well ahead of the 14.7 rating for Game 3 last year, and the 34 share was up from a 27 share last year.

The national rating for the first two games averaged a 15.7, up 15 percent from last year. The national rating for Game 3 will be released today.

Thus far, the series is the third-highest rated NBA Finals.

_ WIRE REPORTS

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