Two perennial power-house teams are finding it a difficult road to the NBA Finals.
In Chicago, Michael Jordan scored 27 of his game-high 35 points in the second half to power the Bulls to a 105-97 victory over the two-time defending champions and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.On the West Coast the Portland Trail Blazers defeated Los Angeles Lakers, post-season fixtures, 109-98 to even their series at one game apiece.
"They want it. They're very hungry," Pistons Coach Chuck Daly said of Chicago.
The best-of-seven series shifts to The Palace of Auburn Hills for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday. The last time the Pistons lost the opening two games of a playoff series was in 1987, when they lost their third-round series to Boston in seven games.
"Their backs are going to be to the wall," Jordan said, "and they know that we're not going to get rattled by their aggressive play and their aggressive talk. We're going to stand tall. We're here for a reason. We're here to try and win this thing. We know they've got something we want, and to get it we have to go through them. And we're not going to stop."
Scottie Pippen added 21 points and Horace Grant 13 for the Bulls, who have won 15 straight playoffs games at Chicago Stadium dating to 1990. The Bulls again received strong bench support and have not allowed an opponent to score more than 100 points through 10 playoff games this year.
Vinnie Johnson had 29 points and Joe Dumars 24 for the Pistons, who are trying to become only the third team in NBA history to win three straight championships. Johnson had 18 points in the final quarter.
The Bulls, eliminated by the Pistons the last three years, led by 5 after one quarter and 8 at halftime, then broke it open in the third quarter. Jordan, who had 12 points in the third, gave the Bulls their largest lead to that point at 76-59 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 22 seconds left in the period.
"I just waited for my opportunities," Jordan said. "The other guys really stepped up and gave us some good offensive output. I only took seven shots in the first half, and the shots weren't there for me but there for someone else. They were taking those opportunities and making them."
Chicago entered the final quarter ahead by 15, and Detroit drew within 76-65 after Johnson opened the period with a jumper and Isiah Thomas a pair of free throws. The Bulls slowly built the lead to 18, at 95-77, with 6:12 remaining, but the Pistons weren't through yet.
Dumars followed with a 3-pointer to start a 16-4 run that cut the deficit to 99-93 with 52 seconds to play. Dennis Rodman capped the tear with a 3-pointer from the corner, but the Pistons ran out of time.
Blazers 109, Lakers 98
At Portland, Ore., Terry Porter scored 26 points and Clyde Drexler added 21 to help the Trail Blazers tie the Western Conference finals at one game apiece.
Porter hit 12 of 15 field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, and dished out a team-high eight assists for the Blazers, who reeled off 9 of the game's last 11 points.
James Worthy led the Lakers in a losing effort with 21 points and Byron Scott clipped in 20.
It was a close contest throughout, but the Blazers got the breathing room they needed when Porter hit a 20-foot jumper with 1:39 left to put Portland up 103-96. A minute later, Kevin Duckworth and Jerome Kersey put the game on ice with a pair of free throws each.
The series now moves to Los Angeles for games three and four on Friday and Sunday.