Bulls send Rockets to the moon


Michael Jordan says the Bulls took advantage of a tired Rockets team.
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Mario Elie had no excuses for the Rockets' poor showing.
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Charles Barkley gives Dennis Rodman and the Bulls their due.
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Rodman was not surprised at all by the Bulls' effort.
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Box score | Game recap | Game flow

CHICAGO -- For three quarters, the Chicago Bulls let the Houston Rockets think they were in the game. Then playtime was over.

Michael Jordan scored 32 points and Dennis Rodman grabbed 18 rebounds as the Bulls pulled away for a 110-86 victory in a matchup of the top teams in each conference.

"I've said many times: They are the best team in the world. It's going to take a great team to beat them," Rockets forward Charles Barkley said of the Bulls. "There's a lot of work to be done. We've got a good team; they're the best."

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan elevates for a shot over Matt Maloney.
Houston led 43-40 at halftime and Chicago fought back for a 74-66 advantage after three quarters. The Bulls put the game away by outscoring Houston 36-20 in the fourth.

"We took control of the game by making some adjustments in the second half," said Chicago's Scottie Pippen, who scored 17. "Defensively, we were much more active after the second quarter. We were able to stop (Hakeem) Olajuwon from being effective down low.

"Houston showed us they could play at the top half of the NBA. Their energy just seemed to fade toward the end."

CHICAGO improved the league's best overall record to 31-4. Houston fell to 27-9.

Toni Kukoc came off the bench for 20 points and Jason Caffey added 12 as they outscored the Houston bench 32-24.

Olajuwon scored 29 points and rookie Matt Maloney and Mario Elie each added nine for the Rockets, who maintained its 3½-game lead over the Utah Jazz atop the Midwest Division.

"Give Chicago credit. They played very well," Olajuwon said. "We have to take this game as motivation to win the next one. Nobody is really happy with the way we played tonight."

Clyde Drexler shot just three for 11 from the floor and Barkley was two for 11.

"We got out butts kicked tonight," Barkley said. "There are no excuses tonight. They played great in the second half. Our offense just couldn't keep going.

"We need to diversify our offense more. It seemed we ran the same play very time down the court. It was damn boring and totally unproductive."

Barkley had just seven rebounds and couldn't outscore the low-scoring Rodman, as each player had eight points. During a 1½-minute span of the third quarter, Rodman beat Barkley downcourt for a layup and stepped inside Barkley for a tip-in.

"Dennis was awesome," Chicago's Steve Kerr said. "In the second quarter, I heard Barkley tell Dennis that it was going to be a long night. I guess he was right."

"I respect Rodman as a player," Barkley said. "Dennis kicked our butts. He outplayed me."

Rodman, who averages nearly 17 rebounds per game, needs just 14 boards for 10,000 in his career.

Jordan sank a 3-pointer to ignite a 9-0 spurt and give the Bulls the lead for good, 60-58, with 3:48 left in the third quarter. Pippen followed with consecutive 3-pointers to give Chicago a 66-58 lead with 2:09 left in the third.

"I didn't shoot the ball particularly well tonight but we were able to come out in the second half and dictate the action. Our defense kind of took over," Jordan said. "They seemed a little tired, particularly in the third and fourth quarters.

"I imagine being their fourth games in five nights caught up with them. It was strange to see Charles play as quiet as he did."

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