The Phoenix Suns ruined Chicago's early celebration plans Friday night, sending the NBA Finals back to Arizona with their second victory in three road games.
Richard Dumas, who usually scores well in the first quarter but often is benched in favor of experience in the second half, had 11 of his 25 points in the third quarter, leading Phoenix to a 108-98 victory. Kevin Johnson had 25 points and Charles Barkley added 24 for the Suns, who avoided elimination for the fifth time in the playoffs.
Michael Jordan, averaging 42.6 in the finals, scored 41 points for the Bulls, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, with the final two games of the finals scheduled Sunday and Wednesday nights in Phoenix.
Chicago police had taken a number of measures to try and ward off any problems with a celebration in the streets as there was last year when the Bulls won.
"Chicago, you can take all that wood off the windows, there won't be any riots tonight," Barkley said. "I don't care about being down 3-1, God wants us to win the world championship. I talked to him the other night."
Now that they've forced at least a sixth game, the Suns must address another problem _ winning at home against Chicago, which has won all three games it has played at America West Arena this season. The Bulls were the first team in NBA Finals history to win the first two games on the road.
"If we're the best team we should be able to win two in Phoenix," Suns coach Paul Westphal said. "If not, we'll tip our hat to them."
Scottie Pippen had 22 points and John Paxson 12, all on three-pointers, for the Bulls.
The Suns, who never trailed in the second half, avoided a fourth-quarter collapse like the one Portland had last year when Chicago came back from a 15-point deficit to win the final game against the Trail Blazers.
Leading 80-73 going into the final period, Phoenix extended the margin to 94-83 with 5:11 left after two jumpers by Johnson, two free throws by Dan Majerle and a fastbreak layup by Danny Ainge.
A three-pointer by Ainge gave the Suns a 99-88 lead with 3:25 left before Jordan made a final push to give Chicago its third consecutive championship.
Jordan hit two free throws and a bank shot to close the Bulls to 99-92 with 2:07 remaining, but a three-point play by Johnson, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, made it 102-92 and ended any realistic hope of a comeback.
Phoenix also faced elimination in three games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and a seventh game against Seattle in the Western Conference finals.
"This was our fifth game, that if we lost it our season was over," Barkley said. "So I'm telling you, it's destiny."