Jordan Pain in the Back -- to Knicks
Alesia, Mark, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Mark Alesia Daily Herald Sports Feature Writer
Oh, his aching back.
Score during the first quarter: Michael Jordan 15, New York Knicks 13.
Oh, this could be big trouble.
Score at the end of the game: Jordan 44, Rest of the Bulls 47.
After all the fretting, this is how it played out in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Jordan shuttling in and out of the game to nurse his back that, alas, proved sturdy enough to carry the Bulls.
In a 91-84 victory Sunday, Jordan had 44 points and few, if any, of the winces that alarmed people watching him in the Miami series.
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy attributed this healing ability to oversensitivity by the media.
"I don't know medically what he's like, but if you wrote about every back spasm or tendinitis, we would have 14 guys (to write about)," Van Gundy said.
And if the regular Michael didn't show up?
"This could have been a good day to jump on us," Jordan said.
With Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc shooting a combined 7 of 30 from the floor, the Bulls needed some carrying.
"I was the only one who could generate things, and I think in trying to come to me, we got out of our offense a little bit," Jordan said. "People neglected to look for their own shots. Hopefully, that won't last and we can learn from it and move forward."
Anthony Mason opened the game on Jordan, before the smaller, quicker Derek Harper took over. Jordan and the Bulls suffered through a spate of 9 straight missed shots in the fourth quarter, but Jordan helped seal the victory.
One play typified his game. With 1:52 left, and Harper in his face, Jordan hit a turnaround in the lane to give the Bulls a 90-84 lead. The Knicks didn't threaten again.
"You get frustrated guarding him anyway, and when he's knocking down the shots he was knocking down, there's not a lot we can do," Harper said. …