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Home Is Where the Bulls Are

Eastern Conference: Chicago wins, 103-89, at Charlotte to take a 2-1 advantage in the series.

May 09, 1998| From Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Homecourt advantage, earned through a successful season by the Chicago Bulls, has become a fleeting thing in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Bulls had it, then lost it Wednesday in Chicago only to regain it Friday night in Charlotte.

Just goes to show what happens when you don't let sleeping Bulls lie.

"We slipped and fell asleep in Chicago and we had to regain our focus," said Michael Jordan, who scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half of a 103-89 victory that gave the Bulls a 2-1 edge in the series.

"Charlotte forced us to do that by beating us at home."

It was the 1,000th consecutive game, including playoffs, in which Jordan has scored in double figures, and he served notice that the best is yet to come for Chicago.

"Rumor is when you lose one at home, that's when the playoffs really start," Jordan said. "Our focus was really high. We wanted to come in here and return the favor."

Jordan was assessed a rare technical foul for arguing with referee Dick Bavetta just before halftime, and his performance was in sharp contrast to the second half of Game 2, in which he was held scoreless for more than 19 minutes.

He complained to Bavetta after failing to draw a foul on a baseline drive with 63 seconds left and the Bulls up by seven points.

Jordan continued to snipe at Bavetta on the other end of the floor, and Bavetta whistled him for a technical. Jordan responded by powering down the middle of the lane for a layup on Chicago's next possession.

"I guess the technical was basically him just saying he was in charge," Jordan said. "He just wanted to show he was in control."

In the second half, Jordan was in control, and now the Hornets are fielding questions about their vulnerability heading into Game 4 at home Sunday in the best-of-seven series.

"This is a disappointment," Charlotte's Glen Rice said. "We just weren't aggressive at all, and I'm not sure why."

The Hornets were trying to send Chicago to its second consecutive playoff loss and its first postseason deficit since 1995, which was the last time the Bulls failed to win the NBA title.

But Chicago shot 52%, had a 29-13 edge in scoring by its reserves and outrebounded the Hornets, 40-25.

Charlotte also was hurt by 44% shooting and a lack of support for Rice. After shooting only 34% in the first two games, Rice bounced back with a 13-of-26 effort and had 31 points in Game 3.

But Anthony Mason was his only teammate to come up with a significant contribution, with 16 points and seven rebounds before exiting the game and getting in a war of words with Coach Dave Cowens, who kept him on the bench for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. The exchange between the two was injected with profanities from player and coach.

Cowens later said he was merely trying to send a message to his team that he was upset with its play, and Mason said he considered the matter closed.

"No matter how you speak around here, it always becomes a confrontation," Mason said. "I'm always forgetting them. I've been around them too much."

Mason repeatedly clashes with Cowens over his role in the offense and what he says is an inadequate number of times he touches the ball inside.

"If you lose and there ain't something going on or somebody saying something . . . I don't even want to play for a team like that," Mason said.

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