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NBA PLAYOFFS

It's Ugly, Even Dull, but Bulls Win

Eastern Conference: They defeat Heat, 75-68, in lowest-scoring postseason game in more than four decades; lead series, 2-0.

May 23, 1997|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CHICAGO — What this game needs is a shot clock.

Oh, it has one?

Spiders seemed to spin cobwebs throughout the United Center. They could have used a tortoise to referee. The lethargic Bulls and the cement-handed Heat droned so laboriously through Thursday night's Game 2, time felt as if it was running backward.

After what seemed an eternity, the Bulls won, 75-68, in the lowest-scoring NBA playoff game since the advent of the 24-second clock, in a game as tedious as it was historic.

The old record low, 145 points, was set by Syracuse (N.Y.), which beat Ft. Wayne, (Ind.), 74-71, in the 1955 playoffs. Of course, neither town remains in the league.

"You never want to look ugly in the face," said Michael Jordan, who did, scoring 23 points but shooting four for 15.

"We played ugly against Atlanta. We played ugly against Washington. It isn't the competition, it's us."

Thursday the competition didn't look any better. The Bulls shot 35.9%. The Heat shot 33.8%, and that was only with the Bulls conceding their last three shots in the final 52 seconds.

Before that, the Heat was at 28.2%.

At least the Bulls had more fast break points, 5-4.

Here's more good news: Bulls' Coach Phil Jackson says the rest of the series will be (shudder) like this.

"I don't think it was just shooting," said Jackson, filing his nightly protest against the Heat's manly defense. "I think there was a lot of contact out there, and that's going to go on in this series. I imagine that's going to be the tone for the rest of the series. We're just going to have to learn to play these 70-point games."

In other words, basketball fans may want to make alternate plans for the weekend.

The game dawned as the real test of strengths between the Bulls, now back in the swing after a one-week layoff, and the Heat, which caught them by surprise, running up a 15-point lead in Game 1 before falling.

Between games, Jackson did some bashing of his bench players, who had shot three for 22 and been outscored by Pat Riley's threadbare bench, and told everyone to come ready, take more warmups, do whatever it took to finally play a good first half, rather than have to come from behind as they have all postseason.

On the bright side for the Bulls, they started better, leading, 22-12, after the first quarter. However, since they scored 17 points in the second, 12 in the third and watched the Heat draw to within one point midway through the fourth, you couldn't say they have found the answer yet.

"There's not much to to say about this game except if you want to talk about defense," Jackson said. "I told them after the third quarter, we can't get any lower than 12 points, if we could score 14, we could probably win the ball game."

Not that it was a surprise, but in their darkest moment, the Bulls turned to Jordan, hot or not.

He was two for 12 when he hit his only perimeter shot of the night, a 20-footer, after freeing himself out front with a flashy crossover dribble, starting an 11-2 Bulls run--OK, walk--that put the game away.

Meanwhile, the Heat cast up the usual assortment of bricks and other misses.

"I'm going to sum it up for you," said Miami's Alonzo Mourning. "They have given us so many opportunities, it's ridiculous and we haven't taken advantage of it. We're not executing. The shots are there, but they're not falling."

No kidding. The Heat is no high-scoring outfit in the best of times and these aren't them. On the positive side, the series is going back to Miami and maybe the Shot Fairy will pay them a visit.

"Basketball is not meant to be played like we're playing it," said Jordan, "but we're six games away from being a champion. . . .

"If we're playing ugly because of their defense, they're playing uglier because of our defense. As long as they play uglier and we win, you'll never hear me complain."

Why should he? He's the one making the $30 million and he doesn't have to watch these games, just play in them. It's basketball fans who have to suck it up these days.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Fewest Points

The fewest points scored by one team in an NBA playoff game since the 24-second shot clock was introduced for the 1954-55 season:

* 64--Portland at Utah (102), May 5, 1996

* 64--Orlando at Miami (99), April 24, 1997

* 67--Orlando vs. Chicago (86), May 25, 1996

* 68--Miami vs Chicago (75), Thursday

* 68--New York at Indiana (88), May 28, 1994

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