Kukoc, Bulls Seek Answer to Current Shooting Slump

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Byline: Kent McDill Daily Herald Sports Writer

Toni Kukoc knows it looks bad.

In two games against the New York Knicks, Kukoc made only 3 of 15 shots, and in five games during the playoffs he has made only 20 of 52 attempts.

"Something is wrong," Kukoc said Thursday after the Bulls completed practice in anticipation of Saturday's Game 3 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series. "It's not the way I work or practice. I'm practicing good, but it is not there. It's weird."

"Toni is getting down on himself," coach Phil Jackson said. "He has to pick himself up. Everyone is trying to help him, but he has got to do it himself."

Whatever is ailing Kukoc is also ailing the rest of the Bulls. In two games, they made only 39.3 percent of their shots, and if you discount the 11 of 19 they made in the fourth quarter Tuesday, they are shooting 37 percent from the field.

But Kukoc, who shot 49 percent during the season, is of particular concern. The Bulls' best advantage over the Knicks, and especially over the Orlando Magic, is bench scoring, and Kukoc is not helping with only 13 points in two games.

"I don't really know what the reason is," Kukoc said. "Everyone is trying to give me the good word. I'm anxious to play again. I will get it back."

"It's a question of confidence," assistant coach Tex Winter said. "You have to find a way to play your way through it. But, the skill of putting the ball in the basket, especially from long range, is pretty exacting. A hangnail can make the difference. "

From 3-point range, the Bulls are 10 of 40 against the Knicks, who contest every shot by running at the shooter. It has taken Kukoc (0 of 8) off his game, and limited Steve Kerr to 11 shots and 13 total points.

"Toni's problem with New York is they are so physical at the forward position," Jackson said. "As long as you play in your team's offense, your game will come back to you. …