FRIDAY, JUNE 13
Chicago 90, Utah 86
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Paxson-like Kerr comes through in the clutch

Thumbs up! Bulls win fifth title

Jazz don't go down without a fight

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Legacy of Jazz: determination


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Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls staked their claim to the best basketball dynasty in 30 years, rallying in the fourth quarter to defeat the Utah Jazz, 90-86, and win their second straight NBA championship.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan celebrates after capturing his fifth NBA title and fifth Finals MVP award.
The Bulls have won five championships in seven years, surpassing the five in nine years won by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s. Since the inception of the shot clock in 1954, only the Boston Celtics, who won eight straight titles from 1959 to 1966, have had a stronger hold on the title.

"This is a sober one, because we knew we had to struggle for it," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "It was a very bumpy road through the championship. I only want to say our two captains (Jordan and Scottie Pippen) stepped up and showed the way. I can't say enough about their leadership, especially tonight."

The Bulls closed out the gutty Jazz in six games, calling on the memories of both their 1992 and 1993 titles. As usual, they also called on Jordan, who had 39 points and 11 rebounds and was named Finals Most Valuable Player for the fifth time.

"When it gets to six it's going to be bigger," said Jordan, who arrived at the podium with a big bottle of champagne and a cigar. "They just jeep getting bigger and bigger as we keep winning and winning. Malone, Stockton, Hornacek, Bryon Russell came in and they gave us a run for our money. But we persevered and I'm happy to be at this podium and just knowing that we're the champions for the fifth time."

As in 1992 against Portland, the Bulls overcame a fourth-quarter deficit. As in 1993 against Phoenix, however, it was someone other than Jordan who provided the game-winning shot -- Steve Kerr, who took a pass from a double-teamed Jordan and made a tie-breaking 16-footer with five seconds left.

"When Phil drew up the play at the end, which everybody in the gym, everybody on TV knew was coming to me, I looked at Steve and said, 'This is your chance,' because I knew Stockton is going to come over and help and I'm going to come to you. Tonight Steve Kerr earned his wings from my perspective."

"He (Jordan) said, 'You be ready, Stockton is going to come off you.' I said, 'I'll be ready, I'll knock it down," said Kerr. "He's so good that he draws so much attention. And his excellence gave me the chance to hit te game-winning shot in the NBA Finals. What a thrill. I owe him everything."

A crosscourt inbounds pass was stolen by Scottie Pippen, who sent in Toni Kukoc for a dunk that touched off what has practically become an annual celebration. Jordan and coach Phil Jackson had a long hug, perhaps for the last time. Their contracts have expired and there have been rumors of retirement for both.

"I'm not trying to twist Jerry Reinsdorf's (owner) arm," said Jordan. "It sounds like it. But I'd like to see us defend what we have obtained over the last five out of seven years, which is a championship team. I think we're entitled to defend what we have and Phil should be the coach."

In the last two seasons, the Bulls have won a record 141 games and roared through the postseason with a 30-7 mark. Both years, they ignored constant distractions and easily met the enormous expectations placed upon them by everyone, especially Jordan.

Jordan has finished each of his last five full seasons with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Finals Most Valuable Player award. His dominance is even more magnified by his 17-month retirement, which saw the Bulls eliminated in the conference semifinals in 1994 and 1995.

"Michael's legacy continues to grow," said Pippen. "As long as he plays the game, he's going to amaze us, no matter what, because he has the ability to take control of the game, to make the big shot, to make the big play as he did tonight by giving the ball to Steve. I just see no end of the rainbow for a guy of Michael's caliber."

In Chicago's six-game triumph over Utah, Jordan made a 20-footer at the buzzer to win Game One; nearly had a triple-double in Game Two; overcame a viral infection to score 38 points in Game Five; and carried the Bulls for three quarters in Game Six before he finally got some help from Kerr.

He averaged 32.3 points in the Finals and thoroughly outplayed Jazz forward Karl Malone, who edged Jordan for the regular-season MVP but was clearly outclassed when the stakes were highest.

"He's (Jordan) the greatest player I've ever seen play," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "I don't know what you say. He's such a great player and he's such a great competitor. He has an unbelievable will to want to win this game. And I think that's just terrific for basketball."

Malone had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost three games by a combined eight points in their first Finals appearance.

"That's what eats everyone up," said Utah's Jeff Hornacek. "One game was the only one not a contest. Four of them were very close. We won one and lost three of those. That really eats at you. With a turn here or there, it's us winning it, not them."

"I just never got into a rhythm," said Malone. "I didn't really play well the whole series. What else can you say? It's not the end of the world."

Utah led nearly the entire game but blew a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter and went scoreless over the final 1:44, succumbing to the greatness of the Bulls.

"They seemed to make the plays that carry you down the stretch," said Sloan. "But I thought our people played hard. I was proud of the way they came out tried to compete against this team."

Three free throws by John Stockton opened the fourth quarter and gave the Jazz a 73-64 lead before the Bulls woke up with Jordan on the bench, scoring 10 straight points to take the lead for the first time since midway through the first quarter. Pippen made two free throws, Kerr made a jumper and each made a three-pointer to give Chicago a 74-73 edge with 8:54 left.

A three-pointer by Hornacek and an inside score by Shandon Anderson around a swooping layup by Jordan gave Utah an 81-78 lead with 6:03 left. But Kukoc scored from the post and Jordan made two jumpers as Chicago forged ahead, 84-81, with 3:45 remaining.

Malone and Jordan traded jumpers and Bryon Russell's three-pointer tied the game for the last time at 86-86 with 1:44 remaining. Each team missed twice, with Anderson blowing a wide-open layup with 28 seconds left, setting up Kerr's shot.

"I penetrated and tried to dribble around Pippen," said Anderson. "I knew with his long arms, he could block my shot. I just put up the shot too hard and missed it. This is Game Six of the NBA Finals. You have to finish it. I am a rookie and I didn't expect to get a call for a foul."

Kerr scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, who held a 50-36 rebounding advantage to overcome 38 percent shooting. Pippen had 23 points and nine rebounds and Kukoc added nine points.

Hornacek scored 19 points and Russell added 17, including five three-pointers. Stockton was somewhat contained and finished with 13 points and five assists for Utah.

Both teams started terribly, managing just a basket apiece in the first 4 1/2 minutes. Although recovered from his stomach virus, Jordan appeared tentative early. His jumper with 4:33 remaining pulled the Bulls into a 10-10 tie.

Hornacek hit a technical foul shot and Russell sank a three-pointer for a 14-10 lead. A dunk by Brian Williams cut the deficit to two points with 3:50 left, but Chicago went nearly seven minutes until their next basket.

Led by seven points by Hornacek, the Jazz opened a 23-17 lead after one quarter. The Bulls shot 32 percent (6-of-19) but stayed close behind Pippen, who had eight points and five rebounds.

Anderson started the second quarter and gave the Jazz an immediate boost. His three free throws and inside basket gave Utah a 28-20 lead right after Pippen ended Chicago's field-goal drought. Jordan made two foul shots and drove for a layup, but consecutive three-pointers by Russell widened the advantage to 34-24 with 5:42 to play in the half.

A three-pointer by Jordan capped an 8-2 spurt and pulled the Bulls within 36-32 with 2:48 left. But Malone -- who was 4-of-11 from the line in the first half -- took charge. He made a follow shot, and after two free throws by Hornacek, added two of his own and a jumper. Jordan's short jumper with 16 seconds remaining closed it to 44-37 at halftime.

Rodman and Malone shoved each other just before halftime and were hit with technicals. The Bulls shot just 34 percent (11-of-32) but stayed in the game by making 13-of-16 free throws. The Jazz were 12-of-22 from the line.

Jordan, who had 12 points in the second quarter, started quickly in the third period. While Malone was scoring Utah's first six points, Jordan scored eight of Chicago's first 10, including a soaring drive that closed the deficit to 48-45 with 8:26 to play.

But Stockton took a give-and-go feed from Malone for a layup and Hornacek made a jumper, rebuilding the lead to seven points. It went back and forth until a three-point play by Pippen made it 64-60 with 1:43 remaining.

The Jazz then spurted behind Howard Eisley, who dribbled through pressure and found Russell for a three-pointer, then made a tough layup in traffic to boost the lead to 70-61.


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