Nothing personal, Charles Barkley said, but if the Phoenix Suns have any hope of knocking off the Chicago Bulls tonight and staying alive in the NBA Finals, they're going to have to knock down Michael Jordan.
"We've just got to step up and hit him," Barkley said. "I mean, take a hard foul now and then. Knock him down."
Magic Johnson, now an NBC-TV analyst, said repeatedly during Chicago's 111-105 victory in Game
4, which gave the Bulls a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, that Barkley and Jordan, and the Suns and Bulls generally, had been entirely too friendly for rivals in a championship series.
"I'm sick of Magic saying that," Barkley said. "I don't have time for it. Don't have nothing to do with each other."
Barkley would concede only this much: The Suns are being too friendly on the court. He denied any correlation with the friendliness of the teams off the floor, inspired by the friendship he and Jordan have developed since playing on the Dream Team last summer.
Jordan took obvious advantage of the Suns' gentle defense in Game 4, repeatedly slicing to the basket while the Suns watched. Barkley knows a tactical adjustment is necessary if he and his teammates are to force the series back to Phoenix for Games 6 or 7.
"If you're going to give up three-point plays and tap fouls, that really doesn't do you any good," Barkley said. "After guys dunk the ball and you hit them, that really doesn't do any good. That happened three times (Wednesday)."
Riot prevention: In an ad unveiled Thursday, Jordan says: "If we make it a three-peat on the court, let's not make it a repeat on the streets." The ad includes pleas for responsible celebrations from John Paxson and coach Phil Jackson, interspersed with scenes from last year, when rioters did almost $10-million in damage. There were 1,060 arrests, 107 police officers injured, more than 340 businesses looted and several fires set. Cabs were overturned and police cars damaged. After the Bulls' first championship in 1991, more than 100 people were arrested and dozens of stores were looted.
Ratings: NBC's telecast of Game 4 was the second highest-rated in NBA history. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the game drew a 19.8 rating and 35 share, second only to the 21.2 rating and 37 share for Game 7 of the finals between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers in 1988.