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NBA PLAYOFFS : Jordan Says It All With 54 : Eastern Conference: The Bulls' star quiets the Knicks during 105-95 victory that evens series, 2-2. Pippen makes a key play.


CHICAGO — For some people, comment is superfluous.

Deeds outran words Monday as Michael Jordan, the NBA's Great Sphinx, raised his game into incomparable mode, scoring 54 points to lead the Chicago Bulls past the New York Knicks, 105-95, tying the Eastern Conference finals, 2-2.

Jordan again refused to talk to reporters, this time widening his boycott to include NBC, which has a $600-million contract with his employers and their business partners.

His teammates marveled at what he'd done.

So did the Knicks, despite themselves.

"You don't want to," Doc Rivers said. "You will maybe later, but you're just shocked the way he was playing. He was unconscious."

Jordan made 18 of 30 shots, including six of nine three-point attempts.

Of his field goals, one was a layup, one was a 10-footer, two were from 15 and the rest came from the perimeter.

He had 50 points with 10:16 left.

At that point, he had scored 50 of his team's 90 and 32 of its last 40.

Jordan had been praised after Game 3, during which he missed 15 of his 18 shots but had 11 assists in a Bull rout.

Knicks Coach Pat Riley was so impressed, he made an adjustment for Jordan's new playmaker mode for Game 4, telling his guards to stick closer to the Bulls' perimeter shooters.

Jordan, however, seemed to find Game 3 more embarrassing than praiseworthy because Monday he came out firing.

"They (the Knicks) closed out our shooters," Bull Coach Phil Jackson said. "They recovered quickly . . . And of course, when he gets hot like that, it doesn't matter. Basically, it's a show of his own."

Said Riley later, laughing: "He was passing the ball tonight--right to the basket. Those were all lob passes.

"But Michael, he knows what he has to do. He has such a great read on the game. Coming off the New York games (in which Jordan shot 59 times), he came in here and distributed the ball. Today he probably sensed and felt he had to do more. He was in a zone. He had six threes. He only had one layup. He had everything working with a hand in his face. John (Starks) was pushing on him. He (Jordan) is capable of it. I think we know that."

Even without benefit of Jordan's voice, it's easy to tell it wasn't a happy Jordan who started the day.

There was last week's adventure in journalism.

With Jordan silent, his father, James, was doing mass interviews at Bulls practice to feed the starving media.

The Chicago Tribune ran the James Jordan story over the top of Page 1 of the newspaper.

Michael was shooting 32% in the series.

In six games against the Knicks this season, he had shot worse than 40% five times.

His best game against them all season was 44%.

His last game was 17%.

Monday he looked as if he had decided to do something about it. He missed four of his first six shots and kept on firing.

"I think he was looking to shoot," Rivers said. "At one point, he had (7-foot Bill) Cartwright posted up on (the 6-3) Starks and he waved him out.

"When you're hot, you're hot."

The Knicks, who had come quite ready themselves, took a 7-1 lead, but Jordan got hot and the Bulls took the lead and held it the rest of the way.

By the fourth quarter, when Jordan had scored 32 of his team's last 40, the Bulls led, 90-77, but the Knicks weren't done.

And the rest of the Bulls had become tentative.

Bull players have complained in the past that they get left out when Jordan takes over. Jackson once tried to get Jordan to dispense with his annual scoring title, because no scoring champion before him had won an NBA title--until Jordan proved it could be done the last two seasons.

With 6:58 left, Jordan got his fifth foul and came out.

With 2:24 left, a Charles Oakley free throw cut the lead to 94-90.

Then came the play of the game--and Jordan didn't make it.

Scottie Pippen, driving right on Anthony Mason, was bumped, got off a fallaway 15-footer, made it, then made the free throw. The Bulls were ahead, 97-90, and safe.

The series returns to New York, where presumably Jordan will be content to check out the movie in his hotel room.

NBA East Notes

Horace Grant, who had 13 rebounds all series, got six Monday but was still out-rebounded by Charles Oakley, 12-6, making it 50-18 for the series. "We told Horace just take care of Oakley," Coach Phil Jackson said. "We don't care about the numbers. He's got to neutralize Oakley. Oakley's making a charge at the hoop every time. You've got to sacrifice your body on him." . . . Said Grant: "If you kick my butt in two games, you're going to have a hard time doing it three." . . . Grant said he "definitely guarantees" a victory in Game 4 if the Bulls play as well as they did Monday. . . . "That's nice, Horace," Doc Rivers said. "I didn't know he was a fortune teller, but we'll see. They're feeling good about themselves, like we were feeling good about ourselves when we won the first two games."

Top NBA Playoff Scorers

Players who have scored 50-or-more points in an NBA playoff game:

Pts Player Team Opponent Year 63* Michael Jordan Chicago Boston 1986 61 Elgin Baylor Lakers Boston 1962 56 Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia Syracuse 1962 56 Michael Jordan Chicago Miami 1992 55 Rick Barry San Francisco Philadelphia 1967 55 Michael Jordan Chicago Cleveland 1988 54 John Havlicek Boston Atlanta 1973 54 Michael Jordan Chicago New York 1993 53 Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia Syracuse 1960 53 Jerry West Lakers Boston 1969 52 Jerry West Lakers Baltimore 1965 51 Sam Jones Boston New York 1967 51 Sleepy Floyd Golden State Lakers 1987

* 2 overtimes

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