Jordan: Game 5 is personal
CHICAGO (AP) _ Alonzo Mourning guaranteed a victory for the Miami Heat and got one. Now Michael Jordan has a prediction for Wednesday’s Game 5 in the Eastern Conference finals _ the Chicago Bulls will not be pushed around.
The Bulls, unhappy with what they perceived was the physical play of the Heat, especially Mourning, during Miami’s 87-80 victory Monday, vowed to be more aggressive as they try to close out the best-of-7 series. Chicago leads 3-1.
``It’s personal all the way around. I saw one of my players with a knot on his head, so that makes it personal,″ Jordan said following Tuesday’s practice.
``When your little brother is being picked on and your other brother is being picked on, it’s time for the family to come together and go out and stand strong and be ready to fight. I don’t mean literally fight but I mean in terms of basketball.″
Scottie Pippen got a bump on his head from Mourning’s elbow. And Mourning and Dennis Rodman _ who’s received at least one technical foul in each of Chicago’s 12 playoff games this year _ got into a fourth-quarter wrestling match.
``It was a cheap shot. He had an opportunity to throw a lot of cheap shots yesterday but it’s going to be a different game tomorrow,″ Pippen said, echoing Jordan’s resolve.
``When Scottie got a knot on his head, I got a knot on my head. When Dennis got on the floor and got punched out, we got punched out,″ Jordan said.
Jordan, who missed 20 of his first 22 shots Monday following a long day of golf Sunday, told reporters they could interpret what he meant by ``personal″ any way they wanted.
Then, just as quickly, he offered an explanation.
``Personal could be go out and play with a lot more intensity than normal, play your type of basketball, stand up to their physical play, maintain your poise and do the job you’re capable of,″ he said.
``It doesn’t mean throw elbows, kill people, do any of that stuff. I’m not saying we’re going to do that.
``I’m saying we are going to raise our level of basketball as we did against the Detroit Pistons years ago when they made it personal when they were beating us up.″
The Heat and Bulls had different versions of the Rodman-Mourning entanglement that featured Miami coach Pat Riley trying to separate the two players.
``There were some things said and done out there on the court that obviously go beyond the level of what we consider fair sportsmanship,″ Bulls coach Phil Jackson said.
``But who are we to say? We’ve got Dennis Rodman. You pile everything on top of him. They even had him getting Mourning in a headlock when it was completely the other way around. Mourning had Dennis in a headlock.″
Rodman, according to Riley, was just doing what he always does _ playing dirty and putting other players’ safety at risk.
``He’s a menace. He really is and it has nothing do with getting into anybody’s head. He’s all over everybody,″ Riley said Tuesday.
``He had arm on Alonzo. He grabbed his arm on the rebound. That’s how it all started. He was off-balance when he got into it. That’s the stuff. That is not trying to get into anybody’s head. That’s trying to hurt somebody.″
Riley said Rodman hit Mourning in the back of the neck with his elbow ``just for the hell of it.″
Jackson said the league had called Rodman on Tuesday to discuss the altercation. He said Rodman did nothing to merit punishment.
Riley said the NBA should review Rodman’s play and call flagrant fouls after the fact if needed.
``They should view him every day because he gets away with absolute murder,″ Riley said.
The Heat were able to avoid a sweep, not just because of physical play but because they were able to run the ball with Tim Hardaway finally having a good game with 25 points.
Then there was the so-small matter of Jordan’s horrid first three quarters. He still came back to score 20 points in the fourth quarter and almost bring the Bulls back.
He reiterated Tuesday that his time on the links had nothing to do with his missing jump shot.
``I’ve played golf before on my off days and it has never hindered my play at all,″ Jordan said.
``As everyone saw, I finished the game strong and I had live legs. I just didn’t make any shots. I don’t think golf had anything to do with it. But if everybody wants to use that as an excuse, be my guest.″