Geiger nearly spoils Rodman's return

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CHICAGO -- Michael Jordan scored 29 points Saturday and Dennis Rodman returned from a two-game suspension to grab a season-high 23 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls edged the Charlotte Hornets 87-82 for their third win in a row.

Jordan was not an offensive factor down the stretch, but he made a key block on a nearly unstoppable Matt Geiger in the final minute. Geiger scored 18 of his 20 points in the fourth period, including 16 consecutive Charlotte points.

"We were lucky to win tonight," Jordan said. "Geiger almost took the game away from us at the end."

"I can tell you one thing: Michael Jordan gets a lot of breaks out there," Hornets coach Dave Cowens said. "At the end of the game he mauled one of our guys and was pulling and jerking one of players. Obviously they didn't see it that way. We're biased and so are they."

Rodman was suspended two games by the Bulls for a profanity-laced tirade against referees and NBA executives following Chicago's loss at Toronto on Sunday. The Bulls beat Minnesota and New Jersey in his absence.

"It was great having Dennis back in the game tonight," Jordan said. "His intensity was good and he did a nice job on Anthony Mason."

"He got nine offensive boards tonight and we needed every one of them," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said of Rodman. "Dennis was focused and played under control."

Rodman showed disgust with the officiating only a few times, and it was the equally fiery Mason who received the game's only technical foul. Rodman and Mason seemed headed for a confrontation at one point, but referees and players quickly separated them.

The Bulls led 59-58 entering the fourth quarter, which featured 10 combined ties and lead changes. Chicago used an 11-3 burst, capped by a 3-pointer by Toni Kukoc, to take a 78-74 lead with 3:14 remaining.

Then Geiger got hot, scoring 16 points and then assisting on a Mason layup to make it 78-78 with 2:16 to go. Mason was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw.

"I tried to take advantage of the smaller guy covering me and it worked," said the 7-foot Geiger, who was matched up against 6-foot-7 Scottie Pippen during most of the fourth quarter.

"I felt very comfortable out there tonight," Geiger said. "I had a bad back I hurt earlier in the year. It's still weak, but tonight I felt better -- but not as fluid as I should be.

"I guess they kept passing it to me in the fourth quarter. I was in a good zone. However, I did make a costly turnover at the end which probably cost us the game."

Kukoc hit another 3-pointer with 1:52 to play, giving the Bulls the lead for good. Geiger countered with a jumper with 1:01 to go, but Pippen made a 15-footer and Jordan made his block.

Steve Kerr corralled the loose ball and was fouled, sinking two free throws for an 85-80 lead with 23 seconds left. Jordan added a pair of foul shots in the waning seconds.

Kerr scored 14 points, Kukoc 12 and Pippen 10 for the Bulls, who shot just 36 percent (35 for 90) from the field but held a 49-44 edge in rebounds. Chicago improved to 20-3 overall and defeated Charlotte for the fifth time in six meetings, including two this season.

Glen Rice scored 25 points and Mason added 13 and 15 rebounds for the Hornets. Charlotte shot 46 percent (33 for 72) and committed 22 turnovers.

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