Game 1: at Chicago 107, Seattle 90
Bulls Go Fourth
and Conquer
Game Story | Box Score | Notes
Quotes: Bulls | Sonics
Game 1 Theater: Video, Audio, & Photos!
Game MVP
Play of the Game

Jordan just warming up?

New Bulls
come through

Kemp: Sonics' leading man

Bulls brace for Sonics Game 2 effort

"Tonight we were very competitive for three quarters. We'll learn from this one. We'll get better."
-- George Karl

Game 1 of the 1996 NBA Finals was about waiting for the dam to burst, waiting for the effects of a nine-day Chicago Bulls layoff to run their course and Bulls basketball to pour all over the visiting Seattle SuperSonics.
For a while it looked as if the deluge might be slowed to a trickle, as the Sonics surprised most of the 25,544 on hand at the United Center by staying within two points after three quarters.
But, sparked by 12 fourth-quarter points from sixth man Toni Kukoc, Chicago outscored Seattle 28-13 in the final period to take a 107-90 victory and a 1-0 lead in the series.
"We found a rhythm late in the fourth quarter and were able to take over the ballgame," Bulls Coach Phil Jackson said. "We came into the quarter and scored immediately. We also started stepping it up defensively."

Michael Jordan led the Bulls in scoring with 28 points.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen tallied just six points combined in the fourth quarter, but Kukoc, long tabbed as the "X" factor in the postseason for the Bulls, finally found the range from three-point territory. The NBA's Sixth Man Award winner entered the game having shot 3-for-36 from long range in the playoffs, but he hit two key three-pointers in the first 2:36 of the fourth period -- the second of which became a four-point play after a foul by Shawn Kemp -- to give a Bulls a 89-80 cushion with 9:24 to play.
Kukoc's binge provided the Bulls some breathing room, and then their defense took over, forcing six turnovers and holding the Sonics to just 10 points the rest of the way.
Kukoc finished with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Despite quiet fourth periods, Jordan and Pippen contributed 28 and 21 points, respectively. Ron Harper (15 points, game-high 7 assists), Luc Longley (14 points) and Dennis Rodman (7 points, 13 rebounds) rounded out the Bulls' effort.

Shawn Kemp's 32 points led the Sonics.

The Sonics stayed close after three quarters, entering the final stanza down just 79-77. Kemp was having a monster game, having tallied 30 of his game-high 32 points through three periods, and Sam Perkins (14 points for the game) was giving Seattle a tremendous lift off the bench. But the Sonics simply couldn't sustain the effort in the final quarter.
"Toni scores 7 points, their lead goes from two points (at the end of the third quarter) to nine, and we lose our confidence in the game," Sonics Coach George Karl said. "And maybe we ran out of gas a little bit.
"Tonight we were very competitive for three quarters. We'll learn from this one. We'll get better."
The Bulls led 51-47 at halftime, a slim margin for a team favored to win the series by a landslide. Kemp was dominating in the first half, racking up 18 points and 6 rebounds. Perkins added 11 points in 16 minutes off the bench.
Seattle opened the game focused on stopping the playmaking abilities of Jordan and Pippen, as well as exploiting offensive matchups with Kemp and Perkins in the frontcourt. The Sonics double-teamed Jordan and Pippen on the perimeter, forcing the Bulls to get their early points from the likes of Longley and Harper.
The move worked for a while; Jordan and Pippen went scoreless for the game's first six minutes, with Longley, Harper and Rodman scoring the Bulls' first 12 points and the Sonics staying close at 12-9. But Jordan hit a jumper at 5:20 of the first quarter, and Pippen followed with a steal and three-pointer at 4:24. Their two stars on the board, the Bulls surged to a 22-13 lead and seemed ready to break the game open.
The Sonics called timeout at 3:26 and regrouped enough to close the gap to 24-18 by the end of the quarter. Jordan and Pippen had nine points combined at the quarter break.
The early second quarter was all Seattle. With Longley and Rodman each saddled with two fouls, Kemp and Perkins became the aggressors. They combined for 10 points in a 14-4 run that gave the Sonics a 32-28 lead with 8:22 to play in the first half.
For the remainder of the half, the Bulls' defense tightened, emotions heightened, and Jordan began to find ways to score. In the midst of a 10-6 Chicago run to close out the quarter -- with Jordan scoring 9 of those points, 7 on free throws -- the Sonics' Frank Brickowski was called for a flagrant foul for an elbow to Dennis Rodman with 1:27 to play. Brickowski argued the call, was assessed two technical fouls and ejected from the game. It turned into five-point possession for the Bulls, who were leading 44-43 before the incident.

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