After making 11 of 13 shots from the field in Game 4, Toni Kukoc set a standard his teammates didn't come close to reaching. The rest of the Bulls made only 18 of their 62 attempts as Utah closed the NBA Finals series to 3-2 with an 83-81 victory Friday.
"When you look at the stats and you look at what happened tonight. He's the bright spot," Michael Jordan said. "Somehow we have to raise our level to Toni Kukoc's level next game."So much for the Jordan rules.
Bulls coach Phil Jackson said Kukoc simply played the game the way it's supposed to be played. He was Chicago's No. 1 option on the last play, but Karl Malone's defense prevented Kukoc from getting the ball.
"He didn't try to rush it or do anything unusual. I thought he took advantage of opportunities to shoot the basketball tonight," Jackson said. "That's the way we want him to play."
AWARE OF DAWG: Antoine Carr's 12-point performance has caught the attention of the Bulls. Scottie Pippen referred to the Big Dawg as Utah's missing link - someone who provided the Jazz with scoring off the bench.
"He made me pay on a lot of opportunities when I came over and doubled," Pippen said. "He shot the ball well. You couldn't ask for anything else coming off the bench. He was ready to play . . . He was a difference in (Game 4), for sure."
Besides his defensive troubles, Pippen had even more trouble on offense. He was 2 of 16 from the field and missed all seven shots he attempted from 3-point range.
JUSTICE FOR THE JAZZ: Bulls guard Steve Kerr, who hit what proved to be the series-clinching shot in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals, thought Michael Jordan's buzzer-beater Friday was also going in. However, it wound up being an air ball.
"We did not deserve to win," Kerr said afterward. "It was probably justice that it did not go in."
MORAL SUPPORT: While the Bulls are playing in Utah today, thousands of their fans will pay $10 each to watch Game 6 in the United Center. A similar "Bulls Bash" is planned for Game 7, if necessary.
AND THE GOAT IS: Michael Jordan didn't come right out and blame Luc Longley - and his shoddy defense against Karl Malone - for the Bulls' Game 5 loss. But His Airness' comments left you wondering when he was going to nickname the big Australian "Billy."
"My main project tomorrow (Saturday) is Luc. Let him forget about this game. Unfortunately he didn't have a great game, and a lot of people are going to look to him as the reason why we didn't win," said Jordan.
I-15 PROBLEMS IN CHICAGO: Chicago coach Phil Jackson in part blamed the Bulls' loss Friday to something most Utahns can relate with - traffic jams.
"I think we were concerned just driving to work tonight. It took us two hours to come down to work tonight," Jackson grumbled. "We knew it was going to be a difficult game to get going, because of the transportation problems that were out there."
If the Bulls' bus driver is a Jazz fan, he'll use I-15 to take them from the Doubletree Hotel to the Delta Center this afternoon.
THUMBS UP!: Among the stars who turned out for Friday's game was movie critic Gene Siskel, who underwent brain surgery last month.
Siskel was back in his courtside seat. Next to him was Jack Nicholson, a fixture in the front row for Los Angeles Lakers games.
"For months people have been asking me if Michael is coming back," Siskel told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And I say, `Yes, he is.' And they say, `How can you say that for sure?' And I say, `Because it makes me feel good.' "
Also spotted in the crowd were NBA stars Grant Hill and Kevin Johnson; San Francisco 49ers receiver Jerry Rice; actress-director Penny Marshall, wearing her customary Rodman jersey; and motivational guru Tony Robbins.