The Chicago Bulls defended their turf. Now it's the Philadelphia 76ers' turn.
The Bulls held off a late surge by the 76ers Monday night for a 112-100 victory and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series that now goes to Philadelphia for games Friday night and Sunday."We defended our home court as we knew we would have to do. Now the pressure is on them," said Michael Jordan, who scored 29 points to lead the Bulls.
"We took their punch, held them off and succeeded," said Horace Grant, who rebounded a Jordan miss and scored after the 76ers had cut a 14-point deficit to 103-98 with two minutes left. That started a six-point surge that clinched the outcome.
"Their backs are against the wall," Grant added.
Two other semifinal series open tonight with Detroit at Boston in the Eastern Conference and Utah at Portland in the West. The Los Angeles Lakers, who lead 1-0, will play host to Golden State in Game 2 of their conference semifinal Wednesday night.
The 76ers, who never came close in Saturday's 105-92 loss, were in it this time. The teams were tied 33-33 after the first quarter and the 76ers went ahead 37-33 to start the second quarter.
The Bulls then went on a 7-0 run to go ahead to stay, but they were unable to put it away until the final two minutes.
After Grant's put-back basket, Scottie Pippen, who finished with 23 points, scored the next four points to give the Bulls an 11-point lead with 1:02 to play.
"Grant's stickback was the big play of the game," said 76ers coach Jim Lynam. "We came out and played a better offensive game, but we missed too many second shots. We have to play better defense if we're going to beat these guys. Specifically, we have to go home and win two games."
The 76ers had better offensive balance than in the opener. Hersey Hawkins scored 30 points, Armon Gilliam had 22 and Charles Barkley 20.
All five Chicago starters scored in double figures.
"They came out and made adjustments and we adjusted to them," said Pippen. "It was a very physical game, but we expected that."
Jordan was pleased that the Bulls did not falter when the 76ers made their late run.
"We did not lose our poise, and that's a sign of a mature and positive team," Jordan said. "We're doing well right now. We have to go to Philadelphia focused and unified."
The big surprise was that the Bulls outrebounded the 76ers 42-27.
"I don't think we played a great game, but we played a good enough game," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "Defensively, we got back on our heels and they had a lot of run-outs early in the game. We did not shoot particularly well. It was a tremendous effort by Horace Grant on the boards."
Grant had seven offensive rebounds, three in the closing minutes when the game was on the line.