Even when the Los Angeles Lakers are behind by 29 points in a playoff game, they believe they're good enough to come back.
And that faith is part of the reason they did it Sunday in Seattle.In one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history, the Lakers battled back to beat Seattle 97-95 and complete a 4-0 sweep of the SuperSonics in their Western Conference semifinal playoff series.
"You can't give the Lakers a single breath," the Sonics' Olden Polynice said. "When you have them down, you have to put them out. You can't let them get up off the floor."
"This was the first time we've ever been beaten like that in the first quarter," the Lakers' Byron Scott said. "But we have too much pride deep down inside to quit."
They advanced to the conference finals against the winner of the Phoenix-Golden State series, which the Suns lead 3-1.
In other playoff games Sunday, the Chicago Bulls, behind Michael Jordan's 47 points, took a 3-1 edge with a 106-93 victory over the New York Knicks, and the Detroit Pistons went up 3-0 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks, 110-90.
Seattle led 32-12 after the first quarter Sunday and extended the margin to 41-12 and 43-14 in the first two minutes of the second period.
The NBA doesn't keep records on playoff comebacks, but the Lakers stunned the crowd of 14,006 in the Seattle Coliseum with a comeback that has few equals. During the regular season, the Lakers blew a 27-point third-quarter lead to lose to Detroit 111-108.
This time it was different for the Sonics, however. Sunday's loss came in the playoffs.
"The Lakers just kept coming back and coming back," Dale Ellis said. "You just try to forget about a game like this."
A key to the Lakers' comeback was a 16-0 run in the final 5:35 of the first half in which Coach Pat Riley's team went from a 54-27 deficit to a 54-43 deficit at halftime.
When Orlando Woolridge made two free throws after being fouled by Derrick McKey with 6:14 to go, the Lakers led 82-81. They wouldn't give up their lead after they finally got it.
James Worthy led the Lakers with 33 points and 12 of them came in the fourth quarter, seven in the final 3:07.
The Lakers knew they had a chance to win because of who they are, team members said.
"We're veterans," Woolridge said. "We don't panic. No matter how bad it gets. We chipped away because we knew we could get a run against them."
Xavier McDaniel, who led Seattle with 30 points, had a chance to tie the score for the Sonics with 50 seconds left after being fouled by A.C. Green. McDaniel cut the Lakers lead to 90-89 by making his first free throw, but missed his second.
A wide-open Green hit a 15-footer from the side with 31 seconds to go after a pass from Magic Johnson for a 92-89 Los Angeles lead. Polynice made a basket for the Sonics with 27 seconds left, but Worthy answered with two free throws with 26 seconds remaining. Bulls 106, Knicks 93
At Chicago, no one, not even Michael Jordan himself, really believed his groin injury would stop him from another magnificent performance.
"We knew we were in trouble when we heard Michael was hurt," New York Knicks coach Rick Pitino said Sunday after Jordan scored 47 points, leading the Chicago Bulls to victory and a 3-1 lead in their best-of-7 NBA playoff series. "He once came to New York with an upset stomach and scored 47 points."
Hobbling in the early going because of the injured left groin that underwent treatment most of Saturday night and early Sunday, Jordan got it going in the second half when he scored 29 points, including 18 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Jordan walked with deliberate steps and appeared to lack his usual quickness in the first quarter as the Bulls fell behind 15-10.
"I think the guys on our team needed to see if Michael was okay," Coach Doug Collins said. "When they saw he was okay, it was a big lift."
Jordan himself said he didn't know what to expect despite all of the treatments.
"As I continued to play, it loosened up," Jordan said. "Your natural response is to let it loosen up. Once I did, it was full speed ahead."
Jordan got his 47 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the field and 23-for-28 on free throws. He also had 11 rebounds and six assists.
But he saved the best for the end, when Pitino had said on Saturday he hoped the Bulls would tire.
Jordan scored 18 of his team's last 25 points. After Kiki Vandeweghe cut Chicago's lead to 81-79 with nine minutes to play, Jordan had a field goal and a free throw and set up Scottie Pippen for a basket and an 88-81 lead.
The Knicks managed to cut it to 96-92 on a pair of free throw by Johnny Newman, who topped them with 23 points, but Bill Cartwright hit a pair of free throws before Jordan sealed the decision with a three-point play for a 101-92 lead with 1:33 left.
Pistons 110, Bucks 90
At Milwaukee, Isiah Thomas' broken left hand never felt better and Larry Krystkowiak's damaged left knee never felt worse.
Their conditions summed up the feelings of their respective teams, the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, after Sunday's third game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Thomas scored 26 points as the Pistons took command of the series with a romp that put them up 3-0.
Isiah will be back tonight as the Pistons go for a clean sweep.
Krystkowiak, however, will be in the hospital, recovering from knee surgery to repair damaged ligaments. He played only 25 seconds Sunday before he went crashing to the floor on a drive and had to leave the court on a stretcher.
Now Krystkowiak must rebound from an injury that not only ended his season prematurely, but threatens his career. The Bucks must find a way to make up for his absence, something they couldn't do Sunday.
"Detroit is playing well and we are playing the best that we can right now," Bucks center Randy Breuer said. "There is only so much that we can do with all the injuries."
Thomas, who broke his hand in an April fight with Chicago's Bill Cartwright, went into what Coach Chuck Daly called a "shooting mode" and the Bucks couldn't get him out of it Sunday.
Thomas had 15 points in the third quarter when the Pistons took command of the game. He made 11 of 19 field-goal attempts in the game.
"These guys have been carrying me; I haven't been playing as well as I like to. They've more or less put me on their shoulders and I was glad all the work I've done has come to a head," Thomas said. "I think I've caught up."