Even Michael Jordan loses focus sometimes.
Jordan almost pulled off another heroic comeback in the playoffs Saturday, scoring six points in the last 64 seconds. But it was his and Scottie Pippen's vanishing act early in the fourth quarter that cost the Chicago Bulls."We had a couple mental lapses out there, from Scottie to myself to everyone," Jordan said. "We certainly didn't have the same focus, and we have to have that."
While Indiana's bench was dominating the fourth quarter and bringing the Pacers back, Jordan, Pippen and Dennis Rodman were deafeningly silent. Jordan and Pippen combined for just five points early in the final quarter, and Rodman had one rebound before fouling out with 2:07 left to play.
Jordan and Pippen did lead a push in the final seconds, hitting consecutive 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough as Indiana won 107-105.
Chicago leads the Eastern Conference finals 2-1, with Game 4 on Monday at Market Square Arena. The Bulls have won 19 straight playoff series when they open with a 2-0 lead.
"It is a blown opportunity. We had an opportunity to put this team away and we allowed them to get back into the game," Pippen said. "Their momentum flowed from there and we never got control of the game after that."
Jordan led all scorers with 30 points and Pippen added 23, but their slump made those numbers meaningless.
Pippen's jumper gave Chicago a 75-67 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter, and with Jordan on the bench, the Bulls began to relax. Indiana's bench jumped on the opportunity with an 8-0 run, including two foul shots that Jordan said changed the game.
With 58 seconds left in the quarter, Scott Burrell was called for a foul on Derrick McKey, who made both free throws to cut Chicago's margin to 77-72.
"The game changed," Jordan said. "Up until that point, we controlled the game."
Jalen Rose hit a 3-pointer, and then picked off a bad pass by Pippen and tossed it to Dale Davis, who scored the tying points on an easy layup. Sixteen seconds into the fourth quarter, Jordan fouled Davis, who hit both free throws to give the Pacers a 79-77 lead. Indiana never trailed again.