Chicago 97, Utah 85
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When it's game time, it's MJ time

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Bulls defense clamps down on Jazz

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Michael Jordan had 38 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and thoroughly outplayed Karl Malone as the Chicago Bulls moved halfway toward their second straight NBA championship with a 97-85 victory over the Utah Jazz.
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Michael Jordan finished just one assist shy of his first Finals triple-double in Game 2.

Video: Jordan drives baseline and soars for the reverse. 918k avi | QuickTime

Jordan put a quick end to the Most Valuable Player argument and has the best-of-seven series looking as if it will end quickly as well. He shot 11-of-20 from the field and made 15-of-21 free throws, dominating every facet of the game.

"I was penetrating quite a bit," Jordan said. "I anticipated them to double me at certain points in time in the offense. I was able to get some fouls, and I made 15 (free throws). I wish I made more."

The Bulls, seeking their fifth title in seven years, hold a 2-0 series lead. The Jazz host Game Three on Friday night, knowing that the last team to lose the first two games and win the Finals was the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.

"We've got to regroup," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "We have to think about how important it is for us to compete, first of all, and not let someone destroy your will to win.

"I've always been amazed how easy it is to intimidate people in this business. And I thought we were intimidated right from the beginning of the game. If you allow yourself to be intimidated it will destroy your will to win."

After winning Game One with a jumper at the buzzer, Jordan took care of matters earlier this time. He scored 20 points in the first half as the Bulls shut down the Jazz and opened a 16-point lead. He added 10 points in the third quarter and eight free throws in the final period, when the Bulls became sloppy trying to get Jordan his first Finals triple-double.

Ron Harper had a terrific all-around game for the Bulls with 13 points and superb defense of Jazz All-Star point guard John Stockton. Scottie Pippen added 10 for Chicago, which totally took Utah out of its disciplined offense.

"Our pressure was good," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "We were deflecting balls. We were active with our hands and we made it difficult to get the ball where they wanted to get the ball on the offensive end."

After missing two crucial free throws at the end of Game One, Malone set the tone for Utah's poor effort with a pair of early misses. He struggled to 20 points on 6-of-20 shooting and looked nothing like the NBA Most Valuable Player, although he did add 13 rebounds.

"I'm stinking it up right now as a whole," Malone said. "I don't have any excuses, I'm just not playing well. Tonight was terrible.

"I think my teammates feed off the energy I bring to the offensive and defensive end," he added. "When I don't bring that, they don't. I'm just embarrassed."

Jeff Hornacek scored 19 points and Stockton added 14 for the Jazz, who never led and trailed by as many as 22 points. Utah matched the worst second quarter and second-worst first half in Finals history. A late flurry made the final score somewhat respectable.

The Jazz were held to 11 points in the second quarter, tying the mark set by Chicago against Seattle in Game Four of last year's Finals. Their 31 first-half points were one better than the all-time low set by Houston against Boston in 1981.

Three key elements from Game One were evident in the first 90 seconds of Game Two -- Jordan was still making jumpers, Malone was still missing free throws and Pippen was still favoring his sprained left foot.

On Utah's first possession, Pippen blocked a shot, but landed awkwardly and limped back into the action. Jordan hit a jumper at the other end, and Pippen and Luc Longley scored inside to give Chicago a quick 6-0 lead.

"First play of the game, I slipped on a play that I was pretty familiar with," Pippen said. "I went to block his shot from behind him and I just had a bad landing. It pretty much took me out of my game, had me frustrated. I wanted to be more aggressive."

Malone went to the line with 10:27 left and missed both -- one long and one short. The Jazz regrouped and closed to 14-13 on two free throws by Stockton with 4:41 to go.

Jordan, who was 5-for-42 from three-point range in the playoffs, made a three-pointer and jumper and Steve Kerr connected on a pair of three-pointers, opening the advantage to 25-15 with 1:33 left.

But the Bulls went without a basket for the next 7:02. The Jazz scored the last five points of the period and crept within 27-24 on two baskets by Antoine Carr to open the second quarter.

Jordan ended the field-goal drought with a jumper with 6:31 left but Chris Morris made a three-pointer and Malone got loose inside, bringing Utah to 31-29 with 5:16 left.

The Bulls then tightened the defensive screws in a 16-2 spurt that closed the half. Stockton was harassed by Harper on the perimeter and trapped along the baseline. Pippen blocked Malone, forcing a 24-second violation. Jordan stepped in front of a pick-and-roll pass for a steal.

"I think the key to their defense tonight was that they beat us to cuts and showed out on screens and did all the little things that we know are important for us to do," Stockton said. "Only they did them. They did a super job defensively."

"Utah is a much better team when they can run and break and move the ball and get some easy shots, easy baskets," Jordan added. "We haven't allowed that here in the East, which has been a great focus point for us. I think that's one of the reasons we've been so successful so far."

Jordan scored seven points and Harper five in the burst. Twice in the final minute, Jordan went to the line for free throws and heard chants of "MVP! MVP!" from the sellout crowd. He finished the half with 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Meanwhile, Malone struggled, with just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting. The second-best offensive team during the season, the Jazz shot 31 percent (11-of-35) and missed six of 14 foul shots in the first half.

But Jordan refused to take a shot at fellow All-Star.

"I can't say that Karl is feeling pressure."

In the third quarter, the Jazz remained cold and Jordan stayed hot. Utah paraded to the foul line for 13 points but struggled from the field. Jeff Hornacek's jumper with 8:48 to play ended a field-goal drought of nearly 8 1/2 minutes.

Harper scored six points and Longley four before Jordan again took over, scoring 10 straight Chicago points in a 3:09 span. He made two straight jumpers, two foul shots, a pretty reverse layup and another basket as the Bulls equaled their largest lead at 70-48 with 2:32 remaining. Malone had eight quiet points in the period.

The only interest in the final quarter was Jordan's pursuit of the triple-double. He entered the period needing four assists and got three before Pippen and Longley missed shots that would have given him a 10th assist. The Jazz got within nine but no closer.


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