Bulls lose to ... the Nets?


Michael Jordan says his airball was a "dumb shot."
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Phil Jackson is very critical of his team's recent play.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Xavier McDaniel hit four free throws in the final 16 seconds and Michael Jordan shot an airball on a crucial possession as the Chicago Bulls wrapped up a four-game road trip with a 99-98 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Friday.

Since Feb. 24, the Bulls have fallen off the pace of their record-setting 72-win season.

The Bulls (55-9) struggled during their road trip. They lost at New York on Sunday, rallied in the fourth quarter to beat lowly Boston on Tuesday and won by only four points against downtrodden Philadelphia on Wednesday.

"The last couple of games have been dogfights, but we found ways to win," Jordan said. "Tonight, we could never seize the game and our shot selection was not great."

The Bulls set an NBA record by going 72-10 last season. If they want to break that record this season, they must win all 18 of their remaining games.

Jordan finished with 36 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Scottie Pippen added 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but he shot just six for 19 from the field.

Sam Cassell scored 28 points and Jim Jackson added 20 points for New Jersey (19-44), which broke a three-game losing skid.

"It's not embarrassing to lose to them," Pippen said, "but it's embarrassing the way we played against them."

The Bulls need to win their final 18 games to break their record of 72 victories. Problem is, seven of those games are against other elite teams (records through March 14):
Date Opponent Record
March 15 Atlanta 43-21
March 18 Seattle 45-18
March 22 Detroit 46-17
April 10 at New York 47-17
April 13 at Detroit 46-17
April 16 at Miami 47-17
April 19 New York 47-17

"I don't think we got motivated tonight. Hell, I'm not motivated to play against the Nets," said Bulls forward Dennis Rodman, who grabbed 17 rebounds. "They showed better intensity on the court than we did. We have to go out there and be more aware of what is going on around us."

McDaniel and Kerry Kittles sparked a 9-2 run that broke a tie and gave the Nets a 95-88 lead with 3:38 remaining. Jordan answered with a jumper, Steve Kerr nailed a 3-pointer and Pippen made a pair of free throws to tie the score with 1:20 remaining.

Each team missed two shots and McDaniel went to the line with 16 seconds left, making both shots for a 97-95 lead.

"I felt real good about the X-Man on the free-throw line because of his experience," Nets forward Tony Massenburg said of McDaniel, an 11-year veteran. "I would have been surprised if he missed."

Jordan shot an airball from 15 feet on Chicago's next possession, McDaniel corralled the rebound and was fouled. McDaniel sank two more from the line with 2.3 seconds left to seal it.

"I thought I could create a foul. but at the last moment I took the fadeaway," Jordan said of the airball. "It was a dumb shot."

"He's human, you know," McDaniel said of Jordan's miss.

Jordan sank a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer to account for the final score.

McDaniel had 11 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. Kendall Gill had 14 points and six rebounds and Massenburg had a career-high 11 offensive rebounds.

"We didn't worry about losing," Massenburg said. "We wanted to win so bad that we didn't have any fear."

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