Stands for NBA Playoffs Rdp
CHICAGO (AP) _ Shaquille O’Neal had little to say.
``Happy Mother’s Day,″ was all he uttered after his unhappy performance against the Chicago Bulls, who swarmed him every time he had the ball, allowing him only five baskets and 17 points.
Michael Jordan’s lone comment, meanwhile, was fitting for the kind of game he played Sunday.
Just as he patiently shared the ball during the 106-95 win over Orlando, Jordan tossed a compliment to teammate Toni Kukoc, whose 3-pointer with 90 seconds left enabled the Bulls to hold off a Magic rally.
``Toni was the big key,″ Jordan said in a quickie TV sound byte as he left the floor. ``He hit a big basket down the stretch.″
O’Neal’s inability to get untracked against a double-teaming Chicago defense, and Jordan’s ability to get his teammates involved were the two biggest factors in the Bulls’ victory that evened the series at 2-2.
Now it’s back to Orlando for a fifth game Tuesday.
``They did a good job defensively. But we really had some careless turnovers,″ Orlando coach Brian Hill said.
``They didn’t do anything differently. We just turned the ball over more. We gave up 22 in a close game and that was the difference.″
Elsewhere in the NBA playoffs Sunday, Phoenix beat defending champion Houston 114-110 and San Antonio outlasted the Los Angeles Lakers 80-71, giving the Suns and Spurs 3-1 leads in the Western Conference semifinals.
There are no playoff games tonight. On Tuesday night, it’s Chicago at Orlando, Houston at Phoenix and the Lakers at San Antonio, while Indiana takes a 3-1 lead over New York into Wednesday’s only game.
O’Neal, who averaged 20 shots during the season, was only 5-for-10 Sunday. He was 7-for-10 from the free-throw line. He came in averaging 26.3 points in the series and 24.1 in the playoffs after scoring 29.3 during the season.
``I don’t know if you can ever neutralize him,″ said Chicago’s Will Perdue, who scored 11 points in 25 minutes for the Bulls after starting center Luc Longley injured his ankle in the first quarter. ``He’s going to be like anybody _ good games, bad games.″
Jordan usually has two type of games _ one in which he tries to take over or another where he tries to spread out the scoring and shots.
On Sunday he didn’t score at all in the first quarter, had 10 at the half and then finished with 26, 14 fewer than in Friday’s Game 3 loss to the Magic. In that game, he had 31 at the half and only nine in the second.
He was fresher at the end in Game 4, and his 21 shots were six fewer than his average through the first three games.
``More of us were involved in the game from the beginning instead of Michael and Scottie Pippen,″ Kukoc said.
``I think that’s the way to play. If the other guys start good, it’s much easier for Michael to find his own way and step in.″
O’Neal had five of the Magic’s turnovers, including a late pass out of a double team that Pippen picked off, resulting in a layup by Perdue.
After Dennis Scott’s 20-footer again pulled Orlando within four in the closing minutes, O’Neal missed a short bank shot and Kukoc hit his 3-pointer to clinch the victory.
``If Shaq makes that little bank with a minute and a half to go, we’re only down by two and we’re in good shape,″ said Scott, who scored 20 for the Magic. ``He’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.″
Pippen added 24 points and B.J. Armstrong 18 for the Bulls, while O’Neal was not the only Orlando player to have a tough afternoon.
Nick Anderson, whose scoring and defense on Jordan helped the Magic win Games 1 and 3, was 2-for-7 for 11 points while Anfernee Hardaway was 6-for-17 for 16 points.
Horace Grant of the Magic continued his strong play against his former team, with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Jordan, Pippen, Anderson, Grant and O’Neal didn’t speak to reporters after the game. Jordan, who made crucial turnovers at the end of losses in the first and third games, last spoke to the media after Game 1 except for a brief interview with NBC on Sunday.
``We can fine them,″ NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said. ``But we’d rather appeal to people’s kinder instincts.″
``The players have a good reputation for talking to the media. This has been an aberration ... The end result is the media gets no information to the fans, so the fans are being shortchanged.″
Orlando trailed 59-48 at the half, tied it behind eight points each from Grant and Scott in the third, only to have the Bulls go ahead by eight at the end of the quarter after a dunk by Jordan, Armstrong’s 3-pointer and six free throws.
Chicago went up nine in the fourth on Pippen’s jumper, but Anderson hit two free throws and finally made his first 3-pointer to pull the Magic to 93-89 with just under four minutes remaining.
But unlike Game 3, the Bulls didn’t falter down the stretch. The Magic head back to Orlando knowing they didn’t play well but were still close.
``All those turnovers. That’s not like us,″ Scott said.
``The mood is that we let one get away. Now we get to go home and get back to basics.″
Spurs 80, Lakers 71
Although Dennis Rodman was benched by San Antonio coach Bob Hill because he did not join a timeout huddle in Game 3, David Robinson made up for the enigmatic forward’s absence with 26 points and 22 rebounds at Los Angeles.
Terry Cummings replaced Rodman in San Antonio’s starting lineup and had six points and nine rebounds. J.R. Reid, who also played in Rodman’s forward spot, had all but one of his 15 points in the second half, when the Lakers scored only 32 points.
``It was a disciplinary move,″ Hill said of the decision to not start Rodman. ``I was going to use him if we had needed him. I had a quick discussion with the (coaching) staff at one point in the third quarter. We just didn’t need him.″
The Spurs and Lakers combined for the NBA’s second-lowest scoring playoff game since the shot clock was introduced in 1954. In 1955, Fort Wayne beat Syracuse 74-71.
Suns 114, Rockets 110
Kevin Johnson scored a career playoff-best 43 points as Phoenix rallied from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter and a seven-point deficit in the final 4:41 at Houston.
Charles Barkley, who had five points on 0-for-10 shooting in Saturday’s loss to the Rockets, scored 26 points for the Suns.
The Rockets led 78-63 in the third quarter, but the Suns outscored Houston 28-10 to take a 91-89 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Rockets took a 106-99 lead with 4:41 to play on a dunk by Mario Elie, but it was the Rockets’ final basket of the game and they were outscored 15-4 down the stretch.
Hakeem Olajuwon scored 38 points and Clyde Drexler 22 for the Rockets, and Robert Horry had 17 rebounds.