The 84-82 final looked more like a halftime score from a Denver Nuggets' game. Or perhaps a quarter score.
You'd figure that tough defense made the difference in Chicago's low-scoring victory over the Jazz, right? After all, how often does a team score 84 points or less and win?Not often. In more than 1,100 NBA games last season, it happened exactly seven times, mostly in games involving the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves.
The real question after Tuesday night's battle between one of the NBA's best from the East and one from the West, was - good defense or just poor shooting?
You could probably get as many answers as there were missed shots.
Both teams shot paltry 38 percent from the field. Maybe the only reason the Bulls won is that they shot 38.5 percent to Utah's 38.1. That, plus that Jordan fellow, who stuck the winning jumper at the buzzer.
No player who tried a minimum of four shots made more than 50 percent from the field. The Bulls' Scottie Pippen was throwing bricks all night, ending with 2 of 15 for the field for 5 points. His counterpart for the Jazz, Thurl Bailey, wasn't much better, going 3 for 12. Among other Jazz players, John Stockton was 4 for 13, Jeff Malone 4 for 11 and Blue Edwards 3 for 11. Chicago's Horace Grant went 3 for 10 and B.J. Armstrong 3 for 9.
The two superstars came the closest to the 50 percent mark as Jordan went 10 for 22 and Karl Malone 12 for 27.
"I think there was some pretty good defense played out there," said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan. "We did a pretty good job of keeping them out on the perimeter. The thing that killed us in the first half were the second chance opportunities on offensive rebounds. When a team is shooting poorly like that, you can't give them extra opportunities."
Bailey, who guarded Pippen most of the night, also gave the credit to the D. "I think it was more defense. We had some good stretches on defense. But they had that one run (midway through the third quarter) where they made 10 straight points. It just came down to who could stop who in the end."
It was Bailey who had the best chance to block Jordan's last-second shot. Jeff Malone was covering Jordan in the corner, but when Jordan moved out, Bailey picked him up and went up with him on the jumper. "Anybody else probably would have missed it," said Bailey.
Utah's Jeff Malone thought he did a pretty decent job on Jordan, but didn't think Chicago's defense was all that great. "We missed a lot of easy shots. We never could get a run going," he said.
"I guess it was defense," said the poor-shooting Pippen. "We never shoot well against Utah. With Eaton in there, it's kind of tough. We had our problems tonight, but we got the win and that's what counts.
The defensive play of the game was turned in by Jordan at the end of the first quarter and it proved to make a big difference in the outcome.
After Stacey King made a layup with 1.6 seconds left, Stockton tried to hit Darrell Griffith at midcourt with a pass. But Jordan leaped high to snag the ball with one hand, then stepped up and canned a 30-foot three-pointer at the buzzer.
Jordan didn't have any answers for the cold shooting, but he didn't really care since his team won.
"You can throw a lot of excuses out there, but it still doesn't excuse why we shot poorly," he said. "It could have been defense. It could have been our layoff. It could have just been one of those bad nights. But we won, so I could care less what we shot."