Game 2: at Chicago 92, Seattle 88
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Quotes: Bulls | Sonics
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The Worm has
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Steve Scheffler: Tales from the Finals

The Buddha comes home

Steve Jones analyzes Game 2

"The second opportunities, the little things he did, just the free throw down the stretch -- he finds a way to help the team."
-- Phil Jackson, on Dennis Rodman

The scope of Dennis Rodman's contributions to the Chicago Bulls has been as wide-ranging as the tint of his noggin.
Friday night in the United Center, Rodman played the role of safety net, grabbing a record-tying 11 offensive rebounds to carry a sputtering Bulls offense to a 92-88 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 2 of the 1996 NBA Finals.

Dennis Rodman tied a Finals all-time record with 11 offensive rebounds.

Fittingly, Rodman also scored the point that sealed the victory. With the Bulls up 91-88 and less than 10 seconds to play, Rodman rebounded a missed free throw by teammate Scottie Pippen, won a jump ball against the Sonics' Sam Perkins, and then hit 1 of 2 free throws with 3.7 seconds left to end a relentless Seattle comeback.
Rodman's 11 offensive boards -- part of his 20 rebounds for the game -- tied an NBA Finals record set by Elvin Hayes for the Washington Bullets against Seattle on May 27, 1979. In the third quarter alone, when the Bulls stretched a one-point halftime lead into a 11-point margin, Rodman contributed 8 points and 10 rebounds, including 7 boards on the offensive end.
"The second opportunities, the little things he did, just the free throw down the stretch -- he finds a way to help the team," Bulls Coach Phil Jackson said of Rodman.
The Bulls shot just 4-of-16 in the fourth quarter and were outscored 23-16, but Rodman's third-quarter binge, as well as his key play in the game's final seconds, gave Chicago just the cushion it needed.
"I thought we lost some energy in the fourth quarter, and we had some tough shots," Jackson said. "Dennis kept getting the ball back for us tonight, and that was important."
Save for a three-minute stretch in the third quarter, when the Bulls went on a 13-3 run to take a 76-65 lead at the end of the period, Seattle played Chicago even throughout the game. But that three-minute stretch, punctuated by two three-pointers from Toni Kukoc, gave the Bulls an edge they would never relinquish. Even Shawn Kemp's two three-point plays in the game's final five minutes -- part of his team-high 29 for the game -- wasn't enough to erase the damage done in the third period.
"One thing we're learning is that it's going to take 48 minutes of serious, intense basketball to beat this team" Sonics Coach George Karl said, "and I think in both games we've played about 43 or 44.
"I'm very proud of my basketball team. They got two wins, but I think we gained some confidence in the games we played."

Michael Jordan led the Bulls in scoring for the second straight game.

Michael Jordan led the Bulls with 29 points, while Pippen added 21. Ron Harper (12 points), Kukoc (11) and Rodman (10 points, 20 rebounds) paced another balanced Bulls attack.
Five players reached double figures for the Sonics, led by Kemp and Hersey Hawkins (16 points). But Seattle struggled from the perimeter in the fourth quarter, missing all five of its shots from three-point range. The Sonics, who rely so much on three-point shooting, hit just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc for the game.
"I don't know if we can beat them making only 2 or 3 threes a game," Karl said. "We've got to make some threes for our inside game to be effective."
The first half saw 15 lead changes, with the Bulls taking a 46-55 edge into halftime. Neither team shot well -- 41.5 percent for the Sonics and 42.9 percent for the Bulls -- largely because the defenses were relentless.
The Sonics opened in a halfcourt trap, forcing the Bulls into an uncharacteristic 7 turnovers in the first quarter. Kemp continued his torrid early play, with 10 points and 5 rebounds before he went to the bench with his second foul at the 2:57 mark of the quarter. Still, a steal and dunk by Gary Payton and two hooks by Perkins sparked an 8-1 Sonics run to close out the period with Seattle leading 27-23.
The Sonics pushed the lead to five points, at 29-24 and then 31-26, before the Bulls began to claw back. The marquee matchup in the second quarter wasn't Jordan-Payton or Rodman-Kemp. Rather, it was Chicago's Harper versus Seattle's Hawkins. Harper scored 9 of his 11 first-half points in the period, while Hawkins hit 4-of-5 shots in the quarter for 11 points.
Harper hit a three-pointer and then fed Pippen for a dunk to give Chicago its largest lead of the half, 35-31, with 5:54 to play. But Hawkins and Kemp (14 first-half points) scored the Sonics' next 13 points as Seattle regained control, 44-41, with 1:26 to play. But just as the Sonics appeared to have the edge heading into halftime, Jordan nailed a three-pointer from the left side, giving the Bulls their 46-45 advantage at the break.

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