Bulls scramble from big deficit to beat Celtics


Michael Jordan credits Boston for its strong start.
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Dennis Rodman talks about the Bulls' second-half spark.
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BOSTON -- Michael Jordan scored 30 points and Toni Kukoc added seven of his 20 during a third-quarter burst as the Chicago Bulls opened defense of their NBA title with a 107-98 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Dennis Rodman added 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who erased a 16-point second-quarter deficit and beat the Celtics for the eighth time in a row.

Rodman, Brickowski
Dennis Rodman flops whenever he sees his old friend Frank Brickowski.
The Bulls trailed 59-48 at halftime but used a 17-5 run to open a five-point lead. Kukoc scored seven as Chicago scored 11 unanswered points, taking a 70-65 lead on a reverse layup by Rodman with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

"Toni came in in the second half, gave us some really good offensive output," Jordan said. "Scottie (Pippen) missed some really easy shots, I missed some easy shots. We had our opportunities, but Toni started to knock them in for us and that's the makeup of this team."

Boston's last lead came at 75-74 with 2:30 remaining on a jumper by Dana Barros, who scored 24 points. But Chicago reclaimed an 80-77 lead after three quarters.

"In the second half our defense started to shut them down a little bit and got our offense going," said Jordan, who scored just two points in the third quarter. "We couldn't get a handle in terms of what they were running."

A jumper by David Wesley pulled Boston within one point with 7:40 to play, but former Celtic Robert Parish scored two hoops and Pippen added a basket to boost the lead to 94-87 with 4:36 left. Boston got no closer than six points thereafter.

Parish, the oldest player in the NBA at 43, played 14 seasons with the Celtics, winning three championships. He signed with the Bulls as a free agent after spending two seasons with Charlotte.

Wesley had 19 and Eric Williams added 14 for the Celtics, who had just 39 second-half points and haven't beaten the Bulls since April 22, 1994.

Michael Jordan
Even Superman feels pain if you hit him there.
"They tried to get the crowd involved, jumping up and down and get them feeling like the game was over. That's something the old Celtics used to do to the old Bulls," said Pippen, who scored 18 points. "They'd get a lead and you'd think the game was over, and that's pretty much what we were able to do to them in the second half."

Boston played without forward Dino Radja, who was sidelined with a sore left knee. Rookie forward Antoine Walker started and scored 12 points.

"I didn't know until the very beginning of the game," Walker said of his appearance in the starting lineup. "I'm glad to see the coach had confidence in me, especially the first game against Scottie Pippen."

The Celts led 28-27 after one quarter and used an 18-2 burst, capped by Wesley's basket, to build a 51-35 advantage with 5:02 left in the half. Jordan scored 13 of Chicago's 21 points in the second period.

"Boston came out and played extremely well in the first half," Jordan said. "It took us a while to make some adjustments."

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