On one defensive sequence in Game 3 against Miami, Jordan left his man, guard Voshon Lenard, to double-team Mourning in the low post on the left side of the floor. Lenard drifted to the three-point arc on the right, but by the time the ball reached him, Jordan was there too, denying Lenard what would surely have been an open jump shot against a lesser defender. "Michael and Scottie can double-team and be headed back to their man before the pass is thrown because they can see the play about to happen a split second before it does." says Chicago forward Jud Buechler. "They have the kind of instincts you can't teach."
Those instincts helped make the Bulls the toughest team in the league to make a three-pointer against in the regular season, when they limited opponents to 33.5% shooting from beyond the arc. That's a number that would be of more concern to Houston, which attempted the second-most threes (22.4 per game, making 36.5%) in the NBA during the regular season, than to Utah, which attempted the fewest. But the message is clear to the Jazz perimeter shooters, primarily guard Jeff Hornacek and forward Bryon Russell, as well as to the Houston three-point specialists: Open jump shots will be hard to come by against Chicago.
And when the subject is defense, it's impossible to ignore Rodman, though opponents would like to. After missing the final 13 regular-season games with a sprain of the medial collateral ligament of his left knee, Rodman worked himself back into form in the first two playoff rounds. He seemed to get most of the spring back in his legs in the series against Miami, averaging 12.3 rebounds in the first four games, and he proved he's still as irritating as poison ivy and twice as hard to get rid of. He clearly got under the skin of Mourning (with whom he scuffled in Game 4) and Miami power forward P.J. Brown. Rodman has lad his share of dustups with the Jazz as veil, particularly during a 1994 playoff series when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs. But he isn't the defender he once was, and he will have his hands full with Malone or with Barkley and Olajuwon, which means he is likely to try that much larder to get his opponents to lose their cool. That would be a tall order against the relatively controlled Olajuwon or Malone; against the volatile Barkley, it might not be.
So far in the playoffs the Bulls haven't been nearly as imposing on offense as they lave been on defense. Their 75-68 win in Game 2 of the series against the Heat, in which they shot 23 of 64, was probably their ugliest offensive performance of the Jordan era. In an effort to make the attack more fluid, Chicago coach Phil Jackson had the Bulls scrimmage four-on-four in practice before Game 3, which seemed to help. "Our offense depends on movement, and it's hard to get that movement against a team that grabs and bumps and holds," Jordan and after Game 3. "Hopefully that will change as we get deeper into the playoffs." In Game 4, though, Jordan shot a pitiful nine of 35.)
Unless Miami pulls off a miraculous comeback, the Bulls were set to venture to the deepest playoff level: the Finals. And they seemed fully prepared for whichever team they would meet there. The sad reality for the rest of the league is that when Chicago was playing poorly in the playoffs, it didn't matter, because it wasn't playing opponents good enough to take advantage. In the Finals, Chicago would face a worthy foe, but it appears to be too late. Just before Rodman left the arena Saturday night, someone handed him that beer he had been looking for. Like his team, he had what he needed, just in time.