"Gravity works" was Laimbeer's assessment of the play. Although that comment carried a hint of the typical Laimbeer smirk, it was not inaccurate. The modus operandi for today's Pistons is, for the most part, hard but not dirty—the court just seems to shrink when they play their brand of manic defense.
Detroit acknowledges that it has geared its defense to stopping Jordan. At halftime of Game 1, Daly even told Rodman to "forget about Pippen and do your job," which is to concede Pippen the jumper and to converge on Jordan whenever he drives to the basket. Though all too familiar with this state of affairs, none of Jordan's teammates were able to "step forward"—easily the two most overused words of the series, after "Michael" and " Jordan." Result? The Bulls rolled over and died.
Jordan, whose butt and hip stiffened up following the first-quarter collision with Rodman, was held to eight points in the second half, after having scored 26 in the first. Later, Craig Hodges summed up his own contributions and those of his fellow Chicago reserves. "We couldn't play much worse," said Hodges.
Between Games 1 and 2, Jordan's tender injury drew much attention, as did the Jordan Rules. Daly is rather disingenuous on the latter subject, pooh-poohing the importance of the rules whenever anyone wants to discuss them in depth. At the same time, he maintains that no one has completely deciphered them. As he rambled around the press room before Game 2, he held out a cup of steaming tea and said, with mock seriousness, "Ah, what do I see in the tea leaves? Could it be the Jordan Rules?"
Jordan himself had a plan for Game 2, the same one that had been successful against Philadelphia: Recede into the background early in the game (his bruised gluteus muscles and an aching right wrist may have contributed to his decision), get everyone involved in the offense and conserve strength for the stretch drive in the fourth quarter. Jordan got the receding part down pretty well—he tried only eight shots and scored only seven points in the first half—but, again, not one of the "Jordanerrors" or "Jordanaries," as his supporting cast came to be known, was able to step you-know-where.
Detroit stepped off the court with a 53-38 lead at intermission, and Chicago stepped into an explosion of Mount Michael. A transcript of his halftime eruption would have commanded a high price last week, but, to the extent that any of the Bulls was providing elucidation, it went like this: Jordan kicked a few chairs and a watercooler, and, without singling out individuals, he criticized the team's gutless play. The speech did not last long, but it was unprecedented.
And, evidently, effective. With Jordan, Pippen and Horace Grant leading the way, the Bulls went ahead 67-66 late in the third period as Detroit couldn't get anything going offensively. But the comeback effort tired Chicago, and Daly cast a line at his deep bench, hooking Vinnie (the Microwave) Johnson. In the fourth period, Johnson scored seven points, handed out four assists and put his bulky body on Jordan, who had only five points in the final 12 minutes. Jordan finished the game with 20 points and Detroit won going away.
The only thing that really mattered about Jordan's mini-tempest was this: How would it affect Michael and the Jordanaries in Game 3? "I know this," said Adolph Shiver, Jordan's closest confidant, before the game. "Michael got here 20 minutes early. He's ready." And so he was. And so were Pippen and Grant, who pulled down 11 rebounds apiece, and Nealy, who had eight points and four rebounds in 22 minutes.
Still, as matters stood on Monday, the Bulls needed to beat the Pistons at least once at The Palace to win the series. Regardless of whether Jordan stayed as silent as stone or blathered on like an auctioneer, that would not be an easy task against a team as tough and as seasoned as Detroit.