Originally created 05/28/98

Bulls blowout Pacers to lead series



CHICAGO -- After being called whiners instead of winners and having their dynasty threatened, the Chicago Bulls responded swiftly and decisively like the champions they are.

With an attack both efficient and ruthless, the Bulls ran roughshod over the Indiana Pacers for a 106-87 blowout victory Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

These were not the cruise control Bulls of Games 1 and 2, nor were they the UpsetaBulls of Games 3 and 4.

These were the serious Bulls, just like the 1996 and 1997 versions. And right from the get-go, it was clear they meant business.

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen led a first-half onslaught that left the Pacers reeling, and there was no let-up in the second half.

Jordan scored 29 points with seven rebounds and four assists as he led the team in scoring for the 13th time in 13 playoff games. Pippen finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and Toni Kukoc added 19 points as the Bulls avoided their first three-game losing streak with Jordan on the team since the fall of 1990.

Jordan reached 35,000 career points, including regular season and playoffs, third behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

Game 6 is Friday night, and the Bulls will be looking to clinch their third straight trip to the NBA Finals and a possible repeat three-peat for their sixth championship this decade. Game 7, if necessary, is Sunday night.

Chicago opened a 29-16 lead after one quarter, held Indiana without a field goal for more than 14 minutes en route to a 25-point halftime lead and went ahead by as many as 32 for the most decisive win of the series.

The Bulls held the Pacers to 34 percent shooting and allowed Indiana to make only 23 field goals -- two more than the playoff-record low of 21 on four occasions.

Pippen, averaging 15 in the first four games of the series, surpassed that by halftime as he and Jordan had 17 points apiece.

Indiana had only eight baskets in the first half.

The Bulls took control midway through the first quarter with a 14-0 run, turning a 10-7 deficit into a 23-10 lead.

Gone were the smug smiles the Bulls wore through the first four games, replaced by the cold stares of fierce competitors. Even when the referees slapped Pippen and Dennis Rodman with quick-trigger technical fouls, nothing could take away from the Bulls' focus.

Pippen, Jordan and Kukoc scored all the points in the early 14-0 run, and Chicago led 29-16 after one quarter.

A layup by Jordan gave Chicago its first 20-point lead, 39-19 with 7:15 left in the second quarter.

Rik Smits scored on a 10-foot jumper with 6:17 left, giving Indiana its first basket since 8:24 remained in the first quarter.

Chicago responded with energy and emotion, getting three-point plays from Luc longley and Ron Harper to up the lead to 25.

The third quarter quickly became showtime as Indiana failed to mount any kind of a comeback. Kukoc had the highlight-reel play of the night, throwing an around-the-back pass to Jordan on a 3-on-1 break for a dunk by Jordan that made it 74-45.

Jordan scored Chicago's next two baskets, too, and the United Center crowd broke into a derisive, sing-songy chant of "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" as Indiana's star could find no way to defend Jordan.

A jumper by Kukoc with 2:49 left gave Chicago an 80-50 lead. The Bulls were up 31 heading into the fourth and held their largest lead, 96-60, with 10:30 left in the game.

Notes: Indiana dropped to 1-2 in Game 5s of the conference finals. ... The Pacers went up 3-2 vs. the Knicks in the 1994 conference finals, only to lose the final two games. In 1995, Indiana lost Game 5 to Orlando and went on to lose to the Magic in seven games. ... Rodman, who arrived at the arena an hour before tipoff, came off the bench for the fourth time in the series. ... Former Bulls and Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse brought out the game ball. ... Smits accidentally elbowed teammate Chris Mullin in the head, drawing blood, just 10 seconds into the game. ... Mullin of Indiana committed a flagrant foul by smacking Scott Burrell in the head on a breakaway, and Dale Davis was whistled for a flagrant for elbowing Kukoc on a pick. Davis also was called for a technical foul.