•Both teams thrive on emotion, which brings unpredictable results. They read the newspapers, respond to slights real and imagined, get fired up one day, depressed the next, seize the momentum for one game, lose it the next. That's not a surprising aspect of the frisky Bulls, of course, but what about the usually steady-as-they-go Cavs? Well, individually, they may be quiet on and off the court, but collectively they play with much emotion.
Take Game 2, for example. When Cleveland ran the Bulls into the ancient bowels of Chicago Stadium (page 60), perhaps it was simply responding to a basic principle of sport. To wit: When someone calls you a marshmallow, you must go out and toast them. The Chicago papers had referred to the Cavaliers by the m word (and other soft-centered words like cream puff) after their substandard effort in Game 1, and the Cleveland players, as they admitted later, were definitely sitting in their hotel rooms turning the pages. Anyway, the Cavs, like the Portland Trail Blazers in the West, draw much energy from believing themselves to be underappreciated and overcriticized.
The Bulls, meanwhile, were only pretending to take Cleveland seriously; after Game 1, no matter what they said to the contrary, they considered the Cavs to be a somewhat upscale version of the Miami Heat. And that was a big, big mistake. Before Game 2, Jordan walked into the locker room looking sick. As Jackson took in the unemotional pregame ambience, he thought to himself, We're in deep trouble.
And indeed they were. "This team deserved to be booed off the floor," Jackson said later, but he blew his chance to make a statement by not yanking his comatose starters in the first period. Sensing Jordan's weakness, the Cavs double-teamed him more than they had in the past, dispatching small forward Mike Sanders to help Ehlo, and Jordan reacted with confusion. On one occasion when the double team came at him, Jordan retreated almost to midcourt and then weaved his way forward again only to be picked clean by Ehlo. Jordan finished with six turnovers, just one fewer than his field goal total, and no one picked up the slack.
And so it was Chicago's turn to lie down on the couch. How could a team that had won a championship just one year earlier play that badly in a home playoff game? The Sy-BULLS one local writer called them in reference to their multiple personalities. Off Game 2, they could also have been the Invisi-BULLS or the Horri-BULLS.
Long-suffering Cleveland fans had a field day thumbing their noses at the post-Game 1 criticism of their team. One local bakery prepared a three-foot cream puff that bore the Bulls' insignia and a sign that read: NOW WHO'S THE CREAM PUFF! And minutes before the tip-off of Game 3 the best marsh-mallow scene in cinematic history appeared on the Coliseum's two huge TV screens—the one from Ghostbusters in which the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man tramples everything in its path. The crowd went wild, and some of the Bulls even glared angrily at the Chicago reporters, who had started all this marshmallow stuff.
There was only one problem: The Stay-Puft Man eventually got toasted, and so did the Cavs. And had they seen Jordan before the game—confident, relaxed, the picture of health—they might have seen it coming. His pregame conversation, as it usually does when he's in a talkative mood, touched on subjects far and wide. He agreed that his stubby, scrunched-up toenails, testaments to the imperfection of all men, even six-time NBA scoring champions, are quite possibly the world's ugliest. "They've been that way since I was young," said Jordan. "It's the beating they take." Then he admitted that finding the motivation to win it all was easier in last year's playoffs than it has been in recent weeks. "A team like Portland still has that hunger," said Jordan. "We have to come up with something to motivate us. It's not nearly as easy as we thought it was going to be." He also couldn't help but get a kick out of all the marshmallow and cream puff references. "Well, time for us to go eat some marshmallows," he said, an hour before game time. Right before tip-off, he pondered the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man on the screen and the angry reactions of his teammates back on the bench. "We're going to save the Chicago media," he said.
Pippen was feeling similarly motivated, and it was he who set the tone on Saturday. On three different occasions in the first period he grabbed a long rebound and began a fast break that led to either a field goal or two Chicago free throws. Even in the half-court offense, Pippen relentlessly attacked the basket, keeping Sanders so occupied that he couldn't consider doubling Jordan. Cavalier coach Lenny Wilkens is of two minds about doubling Jordan anyway, and his ambivalence is reflected in Cleveland's defense—some of Jordan's biggest-scoring games (a career high of 69 on March 28, 1990, six times over 50) have come at the expense of the Cavs. Jordan was on his way to a monster in Game 3, too, with 17 points in the first period, but he cooled off before coming to life again late in the third quarter. He hit three jumpers in a span of 1:36, all the while jawing at Ehlo.
"You never talked to me before," said Ehlo. "Why are you doing it now?"
"Hey, it's the playoffs, man," Jordan told him. "I've got to look out for myself."