Chicago's Michael Jordan and Milwaukee's Jack Sikma are almost automatic from the free throw line. Almost is the operative word.
Because of their misses, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks each has another chance at gaining a second-round berth in the NBA playoffs.Cleveland will be at home to Chicago, while Milwaukee travels to Atlanta for Sunday's deciding games in the best-of-5 series.
Jordan scored 50 points, but it was his missed free throw with nine seconds remaining that helped the Cavaliers pull out a 108-105 victory Friday night, evening their series at 2-2.
Sikma, a 90 percent free-throw shooter, missed the first of two free throws with three seconds left in regulation. He made the second to tie the game and force overtime, but the Hawks prevailed 113-106.
"I hope I'm in the same opportunity Sunday afternoon - two to go with three seconds left and I can make them both," said Sikma, who led the NBA in free throw shooting in 1987-88. "I feel good I can make them."
In another game Sunday, the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers take on the Seattle SuperSonics in a second-round opener. Seattle captured its first-round matchup Friday night by defeating the Houston Rockets 98-96.
With the Bulls leading 98-97, Jordan went to the line with nine seconds remaining in regulation. He made the first free throw before Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens called time. Jordan then missed the second.
"I can't make 'em all," Jordan said. "Some of the greatest golfers in the world miss a putt now and then."
Brad Daugherty was fouled five seconds later and hit both free throws to tie the game and force an overtime. Mark Price and Larry Nance took charge for the Cavaliers in the extra session.
"We still have one game to play," Jordan said. "Nobody expected us to win the first game in Cleveland. We were the underdogs then and we're the underdogs now."
Larry Nance scored 27 points and Mark Price 24 to pace the Cavaliers.
"Remember, we have one more game to play," Nance said. "Nobody has an edge. They won a game in Cleveland and we won a game in Chicago. But I'm just glad we're going to be home."
The Cleveland-Chicago winner will face the New York Knicks in the second round. The Detroit Pistons await the winner of the Milwaukee-Atlanta series. In both cases, the loser goes on vacation.
The Bucks, who lost seven straight to Atlanta before winning the second and third games of the playoffs, may be without leading scorer Terry Cummings in Sunday's game. Cummings missed all but the first six minutes of Friday night's contest, leaving with a pulled tendon in his right ankle.
"It doesn't look good for Terry, but we came from 15 behind without him," Milwaukee coach Del Harris said, referring to the Bucks' fourth-quarter rally Friday. "We're still going down there with our heads high."
Although Atlanta has dominated Milwaukee this season, the playoffs have been a different matter.