Horace Grant, who does the tough work inside while Michael Jordan hogs the spotlight, put the Chicago Bulls in a commanding position on Sunday to reach the Eastern Conference finals again.
Grant emerged from Jordan's shadow with 22 points and 11 rebounds as the Bulls took a 3-1 lead in their best-of-7 series against the Philadelphia 76ers with a 101-85 victory.Jordan had 25 points and 12 assists, while Scottie Pippen had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls. But it was Grant who showed the way with 13 points and six offensive rebounds in the first half as Chicago grabbed a a 52-38 halftime lead and led by at least 10 points the rest of the way.
"One of the things I wanted to establish was going to the boards," said Grant, whose 22 points were a playoff career-high for the third-year player from Clemson.
"I didn't do a very good job Friday night (in a 99-97 Bulls' loss). I wanted to be more aggressive and they didn't block me out as much. We wanted one win here and we got it. It will be great to end it in Chicago."
Game 5 of the series will be at Chicago Stadium on Tuesday night. A victory would put the Bulls in the conference finals for the third consecutive season.
Philadelphia coach Jim Lynam described the 76ers' loss simply.
"They crushed us on the offensive boards; and at the other end of the court, we could not hit a shot," Lynam said. "They killed us with second shots."
The Bulls finished with a 17-14 edge on the offensive glass and 44-42 in overall rebounds, but those numbers are deceptive. Philadelphia got a lot of those after the outcome was assured.
When it counted, the Bulls were often getting two, three and sometimes four shots off rebounding efforts. Philadelphia invariably got one.
Jordan, who at times showed signs of the chronic tendinitis in his left knee, was just 11-for-27 from the field, but he played torrid defense against Hersey Hawkins, the Sixers' best perimeter shooter, holding him to eight shots and 15 points.
Jordan said Hawkins' game-winning 3-pointer Friday was a sore subject.
"It hurts when your man wins the game, and I wanted to play him as tough as I could today," Jordan said.
Charles Barkley, who led the Sixers with 25 points and 14 rebounds, said, "We did not play a good game. We struggled a little bit with our shots. It is going to be an uphill battle. We know that."
Only four teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series. The last was Boston against Philadelphia in 1981.
Lakers 123, Warriors 107
At Oakland, Sam Perkins scored 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting as Los Angeles pulled within a victory of its ninth appearance in 10 Western Conference finals with its second win at Golden State.
The Lakers used a 16-3 spurt, including 11 consecutive points, early in the fourth quarter to extend a six-point lead to 107-88 with 7:39 remaining.
Byron Scott had 21 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and Magic Johnson had 21 points and 11 assists for the Lakers, who made 36 of 47 free throws as the Warriors committed 34 fouls against their bigger opponents.
"Magic wanted me to go ahead and take over," Perkins said. "Go to the post, get down low. . . . Once we got it down, the shots just kept coming and the shots just kept falling."
James Worthy, who scored 16 points, had another outstanding defensive game against Chris Mullin, who was held to nine points on 4-for-13 shooting and is 8-for-27 in the last two games. It was the first single-digit scoring game since March 25, 1989, for Mullin, who scored 41 points in Game 2 despite a sprained knee.
"My knee is fine, but I was struggling," Mullin said. "James was playing me tough. When you play a team like the Lakers, you have to have everything going for you."