Kukoc goes wild in Bulls comeback


Randy Brown skies over two Lakers for the hanging dunk.
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Pippen prevents trouble by taking down Rodman.
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On the break, Eddie Jones goes in for the flying jam.
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Toni Kukoc describes his game-tying 3-point field goal that climaxed the Bulls comeback.
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Scottie Pippen explains how the Bulls caught fire late in the game.
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Pippen says Dennis Rodman's defense was a key to the rally.
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CHICAGO -- Toni Kukoc scored 23 of his season-high 31 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Chicago Bulls erased a 19-point deficit for a 129-123 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.

Rodman & Shaquille
Dennis Rodman is restrained after taking a shove from Shaquille O'Neal.
Scottie Pippen scored 35 points and Michael Jordan added 30 for the Bulls, who held Shaquille O'Neal without a field goal for the final 23-plus minutes and won their fourth straight game.

"The fourth quarter was alright," Kukoc said. "I got hot and they just kept giving me the ball. Everyone asks me why I don't have any spin on the ball, that's just the way I shoot, it's just like a knuckler. This was a fun game to watch and a fun game to play in. It is nice to be counted on like Scottie or Michael to help win a game."

Chicago, which trailed by 22 points in the second period, pulled into a 114-114 tie on a 3-pointer by Kukoc with 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Lakers took the lead 33 seconds later on a drive by Nick Van Exel, who scored a season-high 36 points. But Kukoc made two free throws with seven seconds left, forcing overtime.

"It was a great comeback for us, it took a lot of energy for us to go into overtime and I wasn't sure we were going to be able to maintain that momentum, but our bench guys helped us get back into it," Pippen said. "We knew in the fourth quarter that we had to make some defensive stops and keep the ball out of Van Exel's hands. We were able to do that and their defense broke down. It was a great game to come back and win."

Van Exel made two baskets around a layup by Kukoc to start the extra session. A steal and dunk by Randy Brown tied the game but a free throw by Van Exel gave the Lakers their last lead at 121-120 with 1:55 to play. Kukoc hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulls their first lead with 1:37 remaining.

"They came back in the fourth quarter and put a lot of pressure on us," Van Exel said. "I didn't handle the ball well and that is what hurt us. I'll take the blame for the turnovers. To have this game and lose it is very tough, this one will sting for a while."

O'Neal missed two free throws, but Van Exel's basket tied it with 56 seconds left. Pippen's layup with 42 seconds remaining gave Chicago the lead for good at 125-123 and after a turnover by Los Angeles, Jordan made two foul shots with 16 seconds to go.

Kukoc stepped up for Jordan, who shot 10-of-32 from the field and did not have a hand in either of Chicago's fourth-quarter surges. Brown matched his season high with 13 points.

"Tony surprises everyone including me, he is the streakiest player in the NBA," said Chicago coach Phil Jackson. "He is the best player at running hot and cold. Without his hot hand tonight we do not win."

O'Neal had 27 points and 13 rebounds, but did not score after making a 12-foot jumper with 6:57 left in the third quarter. Eddie Jones scored 21 points and Elden Campbell added 19 for Los Angeles, which had won four of its last five visits to Chicago.

Chicago trailed 104-85 with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Kukoc scored nine points in a 13-3 burst as the Bulls closed to 107-98 with 6:42 to go.

"That was a spectacular win for us," Jackson added. "Coming back from 18 points down in the fourth quarter, we had to play with all our energy and heart. I think the key for us was putting the press on the beginning of the second half. It has to be a heartbreaking loss for Los Angeles, but we were able to shut down their inside game in the second half and turn it around."

Los Angeles built the lead to 113-100 with four minutes to play, but Pippen scored seven points in a 10-0 spurt to move Chicago within striking distance with 1:40 remaining.

O'Neal and Van Exel scored 10 points apiece in the first period as the Lakers grabbed a 36-22 lead. They built the margin to 65-43 on a 3-pointer by Van Exel with 3:17 to play in the second quarter and settled for a 72-57 halftime lead.

"That was a disappointing loss, in the first three quarters we played some of the best ball of the year," said Lakers coach Del Harris. "The fourth quarter was one of our poorest performances of the year. Chicago showed why they are the champions. They showed how to step up and put a withering defense on an opponent. Hopefully, we'll take the good things from this game and learn from them. We have to show more poise next time."

The Bulls made a pair of charges in the third quarter, closing to 10 points with 8:55 to go in the period. But the Lakers regrouped and rebuilt their lead to 101-83 entering the fourth quarter.

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