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Pippen Powers Bulls to Finals : Game 6: He scores seven points during the fourth quarter while Jordan goes cold during 96-88 victory over the Knicks.

June 05, 1993|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CHICAGO — What began with a sneer ended with a sigh.

The Bulls overcame their long season, their home-court disadvantage and the proud Knicks and now they are through to the NBA finals, looking for the league's first three-peat in 27 years.

The Knicks didn't go gladly or easily, but go they did. Michael Jordan didn't make a shot in the last 24:59, but Scottie Pippen, who owed him a favor or two, stepped up, scoring seven points during the fourth quarter and 24 in all Friday night, leading the Bulls to a 96-88 victory and a 4-2 victory in the Eastern Conference finals.

Someone asked Horace Grant if he was happy to see Patrick Ewing leaving.

"I'm glad the Knicks are going home," Grant said. "The entire crew. Their GM, Pat Riley, everybody."

These teams had been aiming for this show-down since the Bulls' escape in last spring's seven-game series.

The Bulls didn't even try to mask their contempt when the Knicks added seven new players during the summer. Coach Phil Jackson, noting the acquisitions of ex-Clipper Charles Smith and ex-Maverick Rolando Blackman, said the Knicks had gotten players "with an accumulation of failure."

Pippen put it more succinctly: "Same players, new address."

By Friday, the Knicks had at least won some respect.

"I also want to say to all those Knickerbocker fans, your time will come," Jackson said. "You made it to the finals of the conference and you had a great round."

It wasn't too long ago that the Knicks led this series, 2-0. In 109 previous series, only three teams had lost the first two games and won, but the Bulls became the fourth, winning Games 3 and 4 here last weekend, stealing Game 5 by foiling Charles Smith four times under the basket in the last seconds.

It was a grim Knick team that arrived in Chicago Stadium for Friday's last stand.

Coach Pat Riley closed his dressing room before the game in violation of NBA rules--and was fined by the league office.

The Bulls, cooped up and growling Thursday while reporters chased the latest Jordan story, went on an 11-0 first-quarter run.

But the Knicks never went away.

They cut it to 49-46 at halftime and chased the Bulls through a long, intense third quarter and a longer, more intense fourth quarter.

Jordan, with 17 points at the half, made a 19-footer early in the third period, then tipped in Pippen's lob the next time down the floor--and fell silent after that. Riley put the physical Doc Rivers on him and Jordan went cold.

Someone else would have to step up.

Someone did.

With 6:03 left, the Bulls ahead, 81-78, and the shot clock running out, John Paxson, of all people, got caught with the ball, beat his defender with a dribble, leaned in and got off a kind of sidearm 19-footer--which he made.

With 1:01 to play and the Knicks still within 87-82, and the shot clock running out again, Pippen made a three-pointer.

What could a Knick say except that it wasn't meant to be?

"When I was coaching the Lakers," Riley said later, "there were some great players and great teams that had the misfortune of playing or living their careers in that decade. Because they knew they were never going to beat us. That's very frustrating.

"We have to find a way to get better than the Bulls or we're going to be playing against a dynasty for four or five years. Because they're in their prime. They're gonna get more players. That's the frustrating part of it--knowing you can beat everybody else other than one team.

"That's why all those players used to come by the bench when I was coaching out there and say, 'Is there any way?' You know--'Get me over here.' Because they knew that they were never going to beat them. We have got to find a way to get above that."

He has got all summer to work on the problem.

It might not be enough time.

Notes

Said the Knicks' Charles Smith: "We were stunned. No one could tell us we weren't going to win a championship this year. No one in the country hurts more than the guys in this locker room. It was just stunning. Just thank God for the season we had." . . . The Knicks out-rebounded the Bulls, 42-26, but it could have been worse than that. Early in the third quarter, it was 28-7, an amazing 4-1 margin. "We had a timeout in the first half when I pointed that out to them," Coach Phil Jackson said. "I was mystified. I was incredulous at the fact we could not get the ball. Horace (Grant) had two rebounds and he was our leader."

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