Bulls rally to edge Pacers, 81-79

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CHICAGO -- Scottie Pippen scored five of his 18 points in the final 7:53 as the Chicago Bulls rallied to defeat the Indiana Pacers 81-79 in a Central Division battle Monday.

Michael Jordan had 28 points to lead the Bulls, who improved to a league-best 27-4 and are 14-1 at home. Dennis Rodman had 11 points and 21 rebounds as Chicago overcame season-low 33.7 percent (29 for 86) shooting from the field.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan challenges Dale Davis in the fourth quarter.
"This team has always played us tough," Jordan said. "Rebounding-wise, they've got the Davis boys and they double-team Dennis, so Scottie and I had to absorb some of the rebounding responsibilities.

"This is the first time we saw this team this year, and they always seem to take us out of what we want to do offensively."

Indiana, which has lost three in a row, had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, when coach Larry Brown called on Vincent Askew for the final shot. Askew, who was guarded by Pippen, missed a 10-footer as time expired.

Reggie Miller and Eddie Johnson scored 13 points apiece for Indiana, which was held to 51 points in the final three quarters after racing to a 28-15 lead after one.

"I take responsibility for the game," said a dejected Miller, who was 5 for 18 from the field and was not Brown's choice for the final shot. "I'm supposed to be the leader of this team. This is two nights in a row I've let them down.

"It was a disgrace. Eleven guys suited up and played their hurts out. Number 31 lost this game for the Pacers."

Jordan admired Miller's willingness to take the blame.

"That's the consummate pro," Jordan said. "It's tough for Reggie. He's their best scorer and everybody knows that. Without (injured) Rik Smits, the defense is geared to stop him. And against us, he's got to play defense, too. My best defense on Reggie is to make him work on defense himself."

The Bulls played their third consecutive game without Toni Kukoc, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, who has a sprained ankle.

Antonio Davis gave Indiana a 71-63 lead with 11:07 to play, but the Bulls responded with a 13-2 charge over the next 5:35. Steve Kerr hit a 3-pointer and Robert Parish made a jumper to pull Chicago within 71-68 at the 9:13 mark.

Miller answered with a 13-footer, but Pippen nailed a jumper and Kerr followed with another 3-pointer to forge a 73-73 tie. Jordan made the first of two free throws and Rodman followed with a tip-in to give Chicago a 76-73 lead with 5:52 remaining.

Dale Davis brought Indiana within one on a layup, but Pippen had a three-point play to make it 79-75 and Bill Wennington hit two free throws to push the lead to six. After Pippen was called for goaltending, Derrick McKey had a tip-in to make it 81-79 with 29.5 seconds to go.

Indiana used a 22-4 run to open a 24-10 lead with 3:42 to go in the first quarter. Miller, McKey, Dale Davis and Erick Dampier all had five points in the run. The Pacers made 12 of 23 shots in the first quarter and limited Chicago to only for of 18 (22 percent).

The Pacers still led 56-47 after McKey's layup with 7:03 left in the third quarter, but Chicago took off on a 14-4 tear, keyed by 11 points from Jordan. His 3-pointer with 1:40 to play gave the Bulls a 61-60 lead.

"Michael just got hot and then we got a little tentative and took some bad shots," Brown said. "Overall, I'm pleased with the way we played. We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end. Ultimately, it was our inability to score that put too much pressure on our defense that resulted in the loss of the game."

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