Bulls dodge Bullets in fourth quarter


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Box score | Game recap | Game Flow

CHICAGO -- Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr scored 11 points apiece in the fourth quarter Friday as the Chicago Bulls held off the Washington Bullets 98-86 in the opener of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Forwards Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc were back from injuries as the defending champion Bulls were at full strength for the first time since Feb. 27. Game 2 is Sunday at Chicago.

Second chances: Led by six from Dennis Rodman and five by Luc Longley, Chicago outrebounded Washington 20-8 on the offensive glass.

Coughing it up: The Bullets committed 22 turnovers, twice as many as Chicago.

"I think we were all a little bit tentative tonight," said Bulls forward Scottie Pippen, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. "Having Toni and Dennis back in the lineup was great, but we certainly didn't have our usual chemistry going, at least not early in the game.

"We're hoping tonight's game was a game where we could get some of the rust out. We'll come out and play a better game on Sunday."

Jordan finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and slowed down Bullets point guard Rod Strickland in the second half.

"Defense, I feel, won the game for us," Jordan said. "They played extremely hard against us. It took us awhile to figure out how we were going to stop them and win the game. Our bench certainly helped. They helped us find the rhythm in the game."

Strickland had 12 points at halftime, but scored only two in the third quarter. He finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Chicago native Juwan Howard scored 21 points for the eighth-seeded Bullets, who were making their first playoff appearance in nine years. All-Star forward Chris Webber scored just eight points before fouling out.

Rodman sported gold hair and a brace on his sprained left knee. He grabbed nine rebounds before he was ejected for arguing in the fourth quarter. Kukoc, returning from a torn tendon in his foot, scored seven points on one-for-10 shooting.

Dennis Rodman looks for a foul call after pulling down a rebound.

"I was hoping that everything was going to get well, but it just didn't happen," Kukoc said. "I had easy shots that usually go in, but they just weren't going in tonight. I felt pretty good during the game."

Two free throws by Howard pulled the Bullets within 68-64 with 9:41 to go before Jordan and Kerr fueled a 10-2 spurt that put the game away.

Jordan made three free throws -- two off a foul and another off a technical foul against Lorenzo Williams. Strickland made a pair of foul shots, but Kerr responded with a 3-pointer for a 74-66 lead with 8:17 to go.

Pippen and Jordan added baskets to cap the surge a minute later.

"The fourth quarter, we made some mental mistakes which allowed them to get back into the lead and take the game," Bullets coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "You can't let guys like Kerr stay open."

The Bullets got no closer than eight points thereafter as Kerr made two 3-pointers and two foul shots in the final five minutes.

"They did what they had to do in the fourth quarter," Strickland said. "Jordan got hot and hit some big shots.

"We played a decent game, but obviously it wasn't a great night for Chris. We need a big game out of him Sunday."

The Bulls shot just 38 percent (35 for 92) from the field, but held a 47-37 edge on the glass and forced 22 turnovers.

Tracy Murray scored 13 points and Gheorghe Muresan added 12 points and and nine boards for the Bullets, who shot 45 percent (30 for 67). Calbert Cheaney added 11 points.

"We played with them for three quarters," Howard said. "We can play with them. We just made too many turnovers in the second half and allowed them too many second shots. If we protect the ball better Sunday, we have a good chance to win."


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