Ron Harper tried to pull a quick one on the media Sunday night following the Bulls' stunning 96-54 victory over the Jazz in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
After he had showered and changed into a slick-looking suit, Harper attempted to sneak out of the locker room without speaking to the press. Unfortunately for him, a few fleet-footed reporters quickly shuffled to block off his lane to freedom. It was only a matter of seconds until he was helplessly surrounded by a swarm of sweaty bodies fighting for position near him.The guys in the other locker room know just how he felt.
After all, Harper and the rest of his Bullies spent two hours and 15 minutes earlier in the evening teaming up on and suffocating the Jazz.
"I just think that our team came out with a lot of energy, we fed off of our fans," said Harper, who put on a defensive clinic in front of 23,844 spectators at the United Center and millions more throughout the world via TV. "We know we have to defend our home floor."
Pakistan and India wouldn't have to test nuclear weapons if their armies could defend as well as Harper, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did Sunday. Their "Doberman Defense" chewed up and spit out the Jazz's once-effective offense, especially Utah's backcourt.
John Stockton, who was constantly hounded by Harper, had one of the worst games in his career. He turned the ball over five times against seven assists while scoring just two points on 1-of-4 shooting. Howard Eisley also wilted against the Bulls' pressure defense, missing all six of his shots and totaling two assists in 15 minutes. Jeff Hornacek struggled to a six-point outing.
"I think what we try to do as a threesome is keep the pressure on their premier scorers, or be active on the defensive end to ignite the offensive pressure," said Jordan. "I think that's a good way of looking at that whole Doberman attitude or approach. We're not afraid to attack. We're in a situation where we kill or be killed."
Good thing they didn't have any weapons.
It would take most of this newspaper to transcribe all of Chicago's excellent defensive plays in their stingy record-setting performance, but one involving Harper late in the first quarter was as telling as any.
With just under two minutes left in the period and Utah holding a two-point lead like a bar of wet soap, the Jazz passed the ball around the perimeter trying to find a crack of daylight in Chicago's quick-rotating defense. Antoine Carr finally whirled a pass to Howard Eisley, and he was forced to unload a jumper to beat the shot clock.
But Harper's hand met the shot even quicker than the media shoved their microphones in his face after the game.
The play came during a 12-0 Chicago run, spanning over the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second. During the key stretch, the Bulls turned a five-point deficit into a 21-14 lead and held the Jazz scoreless for 5:46.
Harper had his best overall game of the series, and not just defensively. He narrowly missed a triple-double by only two points and three assists. The former L.A. Clipper had a team-high 10 rebounds along with eight points and seven assists.
"Tonight he was much more aggressive," Pippen said. "He took the ball to the basket and made some things happen for us."
It was all due to a day off on Saturday followed by a good night's rest in his own bed, said Harper.
"Today I got up out of bed and said, `Ain't nothin' like home,' " he said. "We don't wanna go back (to Utah)."
If the Bulls play defense in the next two games like they did Sunday, the Jazz might not want to either.