Bulls Air It Out In Ot -- Flat Jordan Comes Alive To Beat Sonics 112-109
It was basketball's equivalent of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Air Jordan had gone flat. The Chicago Bulls' star was not shining. Instead of dominant, his game was dormant.
"I was totally out of sync," said his Air-ness, Michael Jordan. "I couldn't get any kind of rhythm going. My shot was flat. I was really like stunned offensively."
How often does that happen?
"Maybe three or four times a season," he said.
But the Seattle SuperSonics didn't cash in. They lost 112-109 in overtime before 38,067 in the Kingdome last night, dropping out of first place in the NBA's Pacific Division.
The overtime loss is nothing new. The Sonics have not won an extra-period game with K.C. Jones as their head coach and Gary Payton as their point guard. They are now 0-8 under the two in OT.
Improbable is Jordan missing his first six field-goal attempts and scoring only one point during the first 19:37 of the second half. Improbable is Jordan missing 14 of his first 21 shots.
"It looked like Michael had lost his confidence," Chicago Coach Phil Jackson said.
"I lost it just for a quick second," Jordan said. "I felt really hesitant. I was trying to press myself to hit an outside shot. What I needed to do was find something really easy, to get myself going."
That something was an isolation on the left side of the floor, which Jordan converted into a driving layup with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter. The bucket snapped his second-half cold spell. Six more points - off a couple pull-up jump shots and two free throws - would follow before regulation expired.
"What he had done to that point didn't mean anything," said Ricky Pierce, who had 5 1/2 years of close encounters with Jordan while a Milwaukee Buck. "He's going to do his work down the stretch."
Somehow, Jordan did. He scored another 10 points in overtime to seal the Bulls' victory.
"That's why he's Michael Jordan," said Payton, who suffered a bruised lower right leg with less than a second to play. "That's why he's a star."
"Somehow, it clicked in," Jordan said. "We had a second chance; maybe that's the reason. For some reason, I had to find myself quickly. I started believing in myself in a pressure situation, instead of doubting myself."
Jordan scored 31 points before fouling out with 3.3 seconds. But he even made good use of his sixth foul. Fouling Ricky Pierce helped prevent the Sonics from a chance at another overtime. Seattle trailed by three points, 110-107.
Pierce, who led Seattle with 30 points, made both free throws, though he tried to miss the second, in hopes the Sonics would grab the rebound for a desperation attempt to win.
"I swear I tried to miss it," he said.
That was the kind of night Pierce was having. He hit 13 of 23 shots with Jordan and a bevy of Bulls hacking and hanging on his rock-solid arms. He managed that, plus contained Jordan for 44 minutes.
"I was struggling," Jordan said, "and Ricky made it even tougher."
In the end, however, Pierce couldn't do enough.
The Sonics had two late chances in regulation to take the lead. Michael Cage took - and missed - the only shot of his 45-minute outing with 1:30 remaining. Payton, who was four for 10 from the field, misfired on a pull-up 14-footer with the score tied at 95-95.
Derrick McKey, who had 29 points and was 15 for 15 from the free-throw line, tied the game at 97 with 9.1 seconds left in regulation. Scottie Pippen, who led the Bulls with 25 points, missed a three-pointer and Michael Cage snared his 12th rebound with 1.5 seconds left.
McKey's inbounds pass was intercepted by Horace Grant, but the Bulls' attempted lob to 7-foot-5 Chuck Nevitt was tapped away at the buzzer.
Pierce preferred to look on the bright side.
"This tells us where we're at," he said. "Of course, we thought we could win."
So did Michael Jordan. And, as the Sonics discovered last night, when he believes - especially at money time - he's usually right.
SONIC REPORT CHICAGO 112, SEATTLE 109
-- Sonic forward Shawn Kemp gave his sprained left foot a test at the shootaround yesterday and is expected to practice today. It will be his first real basketball action since suffering the injury Oct. 24 during an exhibition game in Spokane.
"We'll see how it goes," Coach K.C. Jones said, "and take it from there."
Jones added that he didn't have a timetable for when Kemp might play a game. "We had a timetable before," he said, "but Shawn's already about a month late."
-- Two former Utah Jazz teammates - Seattle's Bart Kofoed and Chicago's Bobby Hansen - crossed paths again last night. On Jan. 4, 1989, Kofoed was waived by the Jazz for shattering Hansen's cheekbone with a punch thrown during a New Year's Eve party.
-- The Bulls have two players - center Bill Cartwright (broken left hand) and guard Craig Hodges (torn cartilage, left knee) - on the injured list.
-- The Sonics' previous regular-season home attendance record was 35,233, set on Oct. 10, 1980, against the Los Angeles Lakers. Their all-time record of 40,172 was for a playoff game against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 15, 1980. It's unlikely the Sonics will touch break that mark because Kingdome seating has since been reconfigured.
-- Chicago Coach Phil Jackson is the only man to coach championship teams in both the NBA and Continental Basketball Association. He also is one of only nine men to win NBA titles as both a player (New York) and coach.
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