SUNDAY, JUNE 1
Chicago 84, Utah 82
Video: Michael's game-winner, at the buzzer.
Michael Jordan's 20-footer from the left wing at the buzzer gave
the Chicago Bulls a thrilling 84-82 victory over the Utah Jazz
in Game One of the NBA Finals.
"Give the ball to Michael and get out of the way," said Chicago's Brian Williams of the final play.
Scottie Pippen inbounded to Toni Kukoc, who gave the ball to Jordan. He used a crossover dribble to get free of Bryon Russell and buried a jumper from just inside the three-point circle as the buzzer sounded.
"I was surprised that Russell was the only one on me," said Jordan. "Since they didn't double me, I took a crossover dribble to the left, stopped, took my shot and that was it."
"We thought we tried to play him as straight as we could," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "We probably made a mistake."
"Jordan got the ball, time was running down and he hit a great shot with my hand in his face," said Russell. "He did what Michael Jordan is known for -- backbreakers. I kept him in front of me, he didn't get past me. He took a jump shot while I had a hand in his face."
It was the first game-winning shot at the buzzer in the NBA Finals since Dennis Johnson gave the Boston Celtics a 107-105 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Four in 1985.
Jordan was the MVP runner-up to Malone but stated his own case with 31 points, including nine in the final 5 1/2 minutes. Malone finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds, but was just 3-of-6 from the line.
Scottie Pippen overcame a sprained left foot to score 27 points for the defending champion Bulls, who are looking for their fifth title in seven years.
"This is the part of the season where I would play with just about any injury," said Pippen. "There was some pain and discomfort early, but I pressed through it. I will probably not practice the next two days. It's not that I don't want to, but continuing my therapy is probably the better way for me to go right now."
"I thought he (Pippen) really played an excellent ballgame," said Bulls coach Phil Jackson. "He went out at the beginning of the game, got us going, found out what he could and couldn't do."
Chicago improved to 47-3 at home this season and hosts Game Two on Wednesday.
John Stockton had 16 points and 12 assists for the Jazz, who squandered a chance to grab early control of the series. Utah was trying to become the first team since the 1978 Seattle SuperSonics to win its Finals debut.
The final 3 1/2 minutes were frenetic, with six lead changes and a tie before Jordan's jumper.
Jordan had a layup and banker before a basket by Luc Longley gave Chicago a 76-75 lead with 3:29 remaining. Malone made two free throws and a tough drive around a jumper by Jordan to give the Jazz a 79-78 edge with 1:35 to play.
Pippen and Stockton traded three-pointers and Jordan made a foul shot with 35 seconds to go, pulling Chicago into an 82-82 tie with 35 seconds left. Stockton missed a three-pointer, but Malone tracked down the long rebound as Dennis Rodman bumped him. But Malone missed both shots.
"It was just me up there," said Malone. "They felt good. I just missed 'em."
"I was hoping he'd miss both, but I thought he'd make at least one," Jordan said.
Rodman had 12 rebounds but Jordan and Pippen had no help on offense. No other player scored more than six points for the Bulls, who shot 45 percent (34-of-76) from the field and were outrebounded, 43-36.
"It's a concern," said Jordan. "But you guys have asked me that question (about the struggling offense) the entire playoffs and we still continue to win."
Jeff Hornacek scored 11 points and Howard Eisley added nine for the Jazz, who shot 46 percent (35-of-76) but committed 18 turnovers, including seven by Stockton.
"I can live with guys missing shots," said Sloan. "The thing I have a very difficult time living with is guys not executing and handling the basketball."
Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, wearing a Bulls jacket, tossed the ball for the ceremonial first jump and received a standing ovation.
Pippen appeared tentative in the early going, scoring just one basket before leaving with his second foul with 4:11 left in the first quarter. Toni Kukoc replaced him and immediately buried a three-pointer, giving the Bulls their first lead at 13-12.
Two jumpers by Howard Eisley closed the quarter and gave Utah an 18-17 lead. The MVP duel between winner Malone and runner-up Jordan didn't immediately materialize as both got off to poor shooting starts. Malone was 3-of-11, missing several layups, while Jordan shot 3-of-8.
There were 11 lead changes in the second quarter, the last coming on Pippen's slam as he landed on his injured foot, giving Chicago a 32-31 lead with 4:56 remaining. Stockton then scored six points in an 8-0 burst that gave Utah a 39-32 lead with 2:04 left.
The Bulls regrouped after a timeout and answered with six straight points, including two free throws and a basket by Pippen. Russell's three-pointer with 5.5 seconds to play gave the Jazz a 42-38 lead.
Pippen started strongly in the third quarter, scoring seven points in the first five minutes. He had a three-pointer, a block of Russell that led to a breakaway dunk and a jump hook that cut the deficit to 48-47 with 7:10 left.
Then Jordan took control of the offense, scoring the Bulls' next seven points. Another three-pointer by Pippen gave Chicago its only lead of the period at 57-56 with 1:32 to go.
Hornacek, who had just two points in the first half, scored nine in the third quarter as the Jazz took a 64-62 edge into the final period.
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