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On to the finals

Bulls outlast Pacers in grueling Game 7

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Posted: Monday July 20, 1998 04:31 PM

CHICAGO (CNN/SI) -- The Chicago Bulls, given chance after chance by the Indiana Pacers, will have a chance at their third straight NBA title.

The two-time defending champions, playing their first Game 7 in four years, overcame surprisingly poor shooting by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with timely offensive rebounding in an 88-83 victory that vaulted the Bulls into the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.

Chicago held a huge 22-4 edge on the offensive glass as repeated missed shots were turned into second chances and crucial points. In a game that saw Jordan and Pippen misfire on a combined 28 shots, the Bulls scored 24 points after misses.

Jordan scored 28 points on 9-of-25 shooting, failing to score from the field for the last 7 1/2 minutes. Pippen added 17 on 6-of-18 shooting. But it did not matter how many shots they missed, because the Pacers could not get the rebounds that would have put them in the Finals for the first time.

"We definitely got the effort from our players, but the difference in the game was that we got beat to loose balls and on the boards," Pacers coach Larry Bird said. "We've talked about offensive boards all year. Tonight we were just overmatched. The number of offensive rebounds they got ripped our hearts out."

Even with league rebound leader Dennis Rodman limited to six boards, the Bulls held a 50-34 edge on the glass. Pippen pulled down 12 and Jordan and Luc Longley grabbed nine apiece. Pippen and Jordan combined for 11 offensive rebounds.

"This series and this game was a test of our will to determine if we're still championship caliber," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "We were able to answer that in a positive way tonight."

Pippen also made two big shots down the stretch and the Bulls held the Pacers scoreless over the final 2:05 as they reached the Finals for the sixth time in eight years. They have never lost in the championship round and begin a rematch with the Jazz on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

"Not having home court is going to definitely be to Utah's advantage," Jordan said. "But nobody has taken anything away from us yet. We're still the champions and that's how we're going to think when we go into this series."

"I believe they are more vulnerable now," Pacers center Rik Smits said. "I think they showed it today and they showed it in the series. But they're the better team. They beat us."

Toni Kukoc scored 14 of his 21 points in the third quarter for Chicago, which shot 38 percent (29-of-76) but overcame an early 13-point deficit with a boost from its bench. Reserve guard Steve Kerr contributed 11 points.

"Kukoc is the guy tonight who really stepped up big for us," Jackson said. "Without his contribution and Steve Kerr's open looks off the bench, we don't stay in this game."

"We were able to win this game with defense and that's been a keynote for us throughout our championship runs," Jordan said. "I give our bench a lot of credit. Kerr gave us some huge minutes."

Indiana's Reggie Miller scored 22 points, but none over the last 15:30. He attempted just one shot in the fourth quarter -- an airball that Antonio Davis converted into the Pacers' only hoop off an offensive rebound with 2:05 left, cutting the deficit to 85-83.

Rik Smits scored 13 points and Mark Jackson had 11 for Indiana, which fell to 0-3 in seventh games of the conference finals and failed in a bid to become the first team from the defunct ABA to reach the Finals. The Pacers shot 48 percent (27-of-56).

"I thought we had been good enough to come in and win this series," Bird said. "But our early foul trouble killed us. Personally, I couldn't care less about the Bulls. Our goal is to win a championship. We didn't."

After Miller's miss, Pippen beat him down the floor and threw in a running hook as Davis fouled out. Pippen missed the free throws, but Jordan rebounded, killing valuable time.

The Pacers tried to go to Smits, who scored nine points in the final period. But Jackson's entry pass was stolen by Harper with 1:22 left, and Jordan's miss was rebounded by Harper as the Bulls took the clock below 30 seconds.

"Rebounding is a huge part of our offense," Phil Jackson said. "One of the reasons we do well in that area is we have a lot of people around the boards. We have a sense of just being there when the shots are going up."

Indiana's Derrick McKey forced a three-pointer and Harper was fouled with 8.9 seconds left, making a free throw to seal the seventh win of the series by the home team.

"I think both teams expended a lot of energy in the first three quarters," Miller said. "I think the fourth quarter was pretty much a drag-out fight. In the end, they got too many second-chance shots at the basket. They won the battle of the boards. That proved to be decisive."

Nerves and fatigue were evident in the first Game Seven of the postseason. There were 63 fouls, with Chicago missing 17-of-41 free throws and Indiana missing 14-of-37.

The Bulls widened a three-point halftime lead to 69-61 behind Kukoc, who was 5-of-5 in the third quarter, including a trio of three-pointers. But Chicago went scoreless over the final 2:17 of the period, as Dale Davis made free throws around a layup by Game Six hero Travis Best to cut the deficit to 69-65. Davis had nine points and nine rebounds but was 3-of-10 from the line.

Two baskets by Jalen Rose opened the fourth quarter and tied the game and a three-point play by Smits after an airball layup by Jordan gave Indiana a 72-69 lead with 8:54 to play.

Jordan ended Chicago's 10-shot dry spell of 6:44 -- and his own personal drought of seven shots -- with a follow shot with 7:53 remaining. Smits made a free throw before Jordan drove for a dunk -- his last basket -- and drew a foul with 7:28 to go.

His free throw gave the Bulls the lead, but Smits converted a three-point play and Antonio Davis made a foul shot before the game's telling sequence.

McKey stripped Jordan on a drive and a jump ball between the 7-4 Smits and 6-5 Jordan was called. Smits tipped the ball straight to Pippen, who found Kerr for a three-pointer that tied it at 77-77 with 6:07 left.

Antonio Davis made a banker, but Jordan tied it with two foul shots and Pippen made a jumper after his offensive rebound to give the Bulls the lead for good at 81-79 with 4:45 remaining. A jumper by Longley -- his only basket of the game -- moved the margin to four points with 3:25 left.

The Bulls had more to lose and it showed in the early going. Everyone appeared tentative, including Jordan, who was playing in his first Game 7 in six years. Chicago quickly fell behind as Indiana calmly executed its offense.

Jordan's follow shot 91 seconds into the game -- his only basket in five first-quarter shots -- gave Chicago a 5-4 lead, but Indiana scored the next 10 points. Smits and Dale Davis had four apiece and a turnaround jumper by Davis extended the lead to 14-5 with 7:45 remaining.

Even after a timeout, the Bulls continued to struggle and the Pacers, who made their first eight shots, widened the advantage to 20-7 on a free throw by Jackson with 5:41 left, silencing the sellout crowd at the United Center.

Pippen scored the first six points in a 7-0 burst and Harper's free throw pulled Chicago within 20-14 with 3:29 left. Indiana held a 27-19 lead after one quarter, shooting 67 percent (10-of-15) while holding Chicago to 26 percent (5-of-19).

Rose's free throw opened the second quarter before the Bulls finally snapped out of it and got back in the game with their defense, rebounding and bench. Kukoc scored and Jordan had a pair of baskets around a three-pointer by Kerr to forge a 28-28 tie.

Jordan's moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading playoff scorer with a basket with 7:44 left. Jordan has 5,786 points, 24 more than Abdul-Jabbar.

Rose scored Indiana's first basket of the period with 7:03 left, but Kerr made two free throws and another three-pointer to give Chicago a 36-32 lead with 4:53 remaining. After a free throw by McKey, Jordan hit a turnaround jumper and two foul shots as the Bulls opened a 40-33 advantage with 3:48 left.

"I thought the difference for us tonight was the bench contributing big minutes for us," Pippen said.

With Smits and Antonio Davis on the bench with three fouls, the Bulls continually got second shots and held their seven-point lead until the final minute, when Miller made two three-pointers to close the gap to 46-45. Scott Burrell's layup beat the horn and gave Chicago a three-point halftime cushion.

Indiana surrendered 15 offensive rebounds in the first half and shot just 38.5 percent (5-of-13) in the second period.

 

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Multimedia
frame Watch Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls defense finish off the Pacers
  • Start(0 K .MOV)
See Jordan and Kukoc duel with Reggie Miller (0 K)
Luc Longley explains his emotions during the Pacers' run (54 K)
Michael Jordan says the Bulls were confident all along (222 K)
Chicago's Steve Kerr says he got a little nervous in the middle of the fourth quarter (150 K)
Antonio Davis says the Bulls' confidence was evident (147 K)
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