It wasn't Tongue Depressor Night at the Forum Friday.
It only sounded like it, with Michael Jordan as the Wizard of Aaaahs prompting a sellout crowd of 17,505.
"We wanted to make sure the game wasn't close in the fourth quarter," Laker Coach Pat Riley said. "But with Michael, a 21-point lead almost isn't enough."
This time, it was, but barely. The Lakers held off the Bulls, 110-103, but only after Chicago went on a 21-4 tear that reduced a 96-75 Laker lead to 100-96 with 3:08 to play.
All Jordan did was score 41 points while taking a team-record 43 shots, which also matched the Forum record for shots set by Jerry West, now the Laker general manager.
The Lakers' Michael Cooper didn't wait until after the game to congratulate the Bull guard. Cooper chose to pay his respects in the third quarter, right after Jordan had burst past him for a one-handed baseline jam.
"I complimented him on a good move," Cooper said. "He complimented me on playing some pretty good defense."
Cooper, to be sure, had help.
"When Michael got the ball, Cooper wasn't the only one on him," Chicago Coach Doug Collins said. "They had three guys on him. They ran the kitchen sink at him.
"Michael Cooper wasn't going to stop Jordan individually. Go ask him."
But while the Lakers were preoccupied with Jordan, Chicago power forward Charles Oakley powered inside for 21 rebounds and also scored two baskets in traffic, drawing the Bulls within four points.
"They had 26 offensive rebounds," Riley said. "It was like we stopped playing."
The Bulls' 56-39 rebounding superiority was no accident, Riley said. You can give Jordan some credit for that, too.
"He breaks your whole defense down," Riley said. "You're so concentrated on helping out against him.
"They want to control the 24-second clock, isolate Jordan and kill you on the boards. That's their statement.
"I haven't seen such a tenacious rebounding team, and I thought Atlanta was good."
But for all of Jordan's tongue-hanging and head-wagging assortment of moves, and Oakley's strong rebounding, the Lakers prevailed.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored just 12 points, but he made a skyhook in the lane over the Bulls' Dave Corzine to make it 102-96.
With Laker forward A.C. Green denying Oakley position and Cooper denying Jordan the ball, the Bulls were then forced to go to their third option--a jumper by Corzine from the circle.
The Bull center missed, James Worthy rebounded, and Magic Johnson--who finished with a team-high 30 points--drove the lane for the basket that made it 104-96.
Bull guard Steve Colter scored to narrow the gap to 104-98, but after a Worthy miss, Cooper forced Jordan into an off-balance shot that struck the side of the backboard, and Johnson finished off a 2-on-1 fast break with Worthy to give the Lakers an eight-point lead with 1:29 to play.
The Bulls were hurt, Collins said, when Jordan asked for an early breather with Chicago leading, 18-11, and the Lakers promptly ran off 10 straight points, ending the first quarter with a 21-20 lead.
They built their lead to 61-48 at halftime and seemed to have the game well in hand.
"In games like this, Michael gets so jacked up, he gets winded quickly, and I tell him to give me the fist (to come out)," Collins said.
"On one end of the court, we're asking him to guard Magic, who's roaming freely. And on the other end, he's supposed to be our top gun."
Jordan, who played 45 minutes, said he didn't realize how freely he was firing away.
"The intensity is very high in a game like this," he said. "The first six or seven minutes I got winded because the intensity was so high. I was really pumped."
By halftime, Jordan had 21 points. He wound up making 19 of his 43 shots and 3 of 4 free throws.
Laker Notes Laker forward A.C. Green, who like the Bulls' Michael Jordan played all but three minutes, scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds in his third start since Kurt Rambis dislocated the index finger on his right hand. . . . What made Charles Oakley's 21 rebounds impressive was the fact that he sat out most of the second quarter after drawing his third personal foul with 10:20 left in the period. . . . Jordan, on Michael Cooper, the Laker who guarded him most: "He's as good as ever. He denies you the ball and makes you drive. He makes you work. He makes you a much better offensive player." . . . Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers' assistant general manager, said he got this fan letter a month before he retired: "Dear Mitch," the letter read, "You and Granville Waiters are my favorite players." That fan may have been the only person who'd ever heard of Waiters until Waiters wound up as the Bulls' starting center.