It wasn't exactly a big surprise that the Jazz's four-game road winning streak would end at the expensive feet of Michael Jordan. It goes like this: Back him outside, he hits the feather-soft jumper; get in his face, he goes around or over you for a Play-of-the-Week stuff; muscle him, and he draws the foul, and probably gets a basket, too. What to do? Make an appointment to talk it out with your therapist.
Utah's trip to Chicago Stadium ended as predictably as a Rocky movie. Jordan scored 17 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls to a comeback 99-89 win over the Jazz, Friday night.That Jordan would take control down the stretch was hardly a news flash to Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan. "He's been known to do that," Sloan said wryly.
He has also been known to beat the Jazz. For the second time this season, Jordan orchestrated a Bulls' victory over the Jazz, to sweep the 1990-91 series, 2-0. Jordan's last-second jumper in November provided the Bulls with an 84-82 win at the Salt Palace.
For 31 minutes Friday night, the Jazz appeared to be in control of the evening. They were pulling away, 66-50, in the third quarter and Jordan had managed just 12 points against Jeff Malone's defense.
However, by halftime Malone had been whistled for three personal fouls and his ability to stay close to Jordan had begun to diminish.
With 4:51 to go in the third quarter, Jordan began making his move. He hit a layup and soon after landed a running six-footer that drew a free throw. Suddenly, Utah's 16-point lead was down to nine.
"Were we down by 16?" Jordan asked afterward. "I didn't know we were quite so much down."
Jordan scored twice more before the quarter ended, with the Jazz losing their grip, but still leading 73-66.
The fourth period was a typical Jordan production. Before it was 51/2 minutes old, he had tipped in one shot, dunked another and driven for two layups. The Jazz lead was down to one.
The strong finish was in considerable contrast to what had transpired earlier in the evening. In the first two quarters, the best Jordan could manage was 6-of-14 shooting. Kept away fairly effectively by Malone, Jordan had settled into a routine of drawing up for outside shots, most of which weren't falling.
"I was missing easy shots. I had no confidence in my outside shot, so I basically began to look to drive," said Jordan.
Soon it wasn't Jordan alone who was getting inside. Horace Grant, playing on a bad ankle, tipped in a shot with 3:40 remaining in the game, to pull Chicago within a point. A foul on the play resulted in an 82-82 tie.
"I thought we really softened up in our interior defense," said Sloan.
Momentarily, it was all over. With the shot-clock running out, Scottie Pippen made a three-pointer with 2:42 to go, boosting the Bulls to an 87-84 lead. Jordan followed with a 14-foot jumper and a free throw, after which the Jazz never got closer than three points.
Both big plays came following Jazz turnovers. With the score tied at 84, Pippen stole a Thurl Bailey pass and followed with his home run shot. On the next possession, a Jeff Malone pass was stolen by John Paxson, which led to Jordan' three-point play.
"A couple of bad shots, a couple of turnovers hurt us. You can't afford to do that on the road," said Sloan.
Pippen's three-pointer at the buzzer stretched the final margin to 10.
"It was tentativeness," said the Stockton, who finished ith 17 points and 13 assists. "It started with our defense and went to our offense. We were afraid to foul and ended up fouling more."
Jordan shot seven free throws in the fourth quarter, making them all.
For the second straight game, the Jazz's Karl Malone was the victim of double-teaming and his own poor shooting. He finished with 19 points, but made just eight of 21 attempts. With Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright leaning into him, Malone had trouble getting shots off all night. Malone was only awarded five free throws for his night's work.
"The game was right there to win and we didn't get it done," said Malone. "That makes it two games in a row I didn't get it done."
The Bulls' 1,000th win in franchise's history came against a longtime Chicago favorite - Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan. He is still the only former Bulls' player to have his number retired.
But Sloan wasn't entirely thrilled to celebrate the historic moment at his own expense. "Obviously we were outplayed," offered Sloan. "They won the game and now that's history." As is the Jazz's perfect record on this road trip.GAME NOTES: Utah has won five of the last eight at Chicago Stadium . . . Chicago has won 22 straight home games and is 27-3 at home for the season . . . The Bulls have sold out 169 straight games . . . The loss ended Utah's winning streak at five games.