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Thursday, June 12, 1997

Despite illness, Jordan leads Chicago to victory

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AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Remember, he is Michael Jordan. The NBA's
greatest player has done it again.

Sick in bed all day with a viral infection, so ill his teammate Scottie
Pippen wondered if he could get his uniform on, Jordan took the Chicago
Bulls to the brink of another NBA championship.

``Sometimes you've got to come out and do what you've got to do,''
Jordan said. ``We wanted it real bad, and me as a leader had to do my
best, and hopefully the team would have to rally around me.''

Before the game, he couldn't stand up without being nauseated or dizzy.
But on Wednesday night, Jordan scored 38 points, 15 in the final
quarter, and led the Bulls to a 90-88 victory over Utah, sending the NBA
Finals back to Chicago with the defending champions up 3-2 in the
best-of-7 series.

The Bulls can win their fifth NBA title of the '90s with a victory at
home Friday night.

``In the fourth quarter, I don't know how I got through that,'' Jordan
said. ``I was just trying to gut myself through it.''

Even when Jordan failed, he turned it into success. After he missed the
go-ahead foul shot with less than a minute to go, he scrambled for the
loose ball and sank a 3-pointer that put the Bulls ahead for good 88-85
with 25 seconds to play.

Jordan called it his best performance, considering the degree of

``I almost played myself into passing out,'' he said. ``I came in and I
was almost dehydrated and it was all just to win a basketball game.''

Pippen, long accustomed to Jordan's achievements, said he'd never seen
his teammate so sick.

``And the effort he came out and gave us was just incredible,'' Pippen

Before the game, Chicago coach Phil Jackson worried about how much
Jordan would be able to play.

``He said, `Let me play, and I'll regulate my minutes and I'll let you
know how I'm doing out there,''' Jackson said, ``and he played 44
minutes. That's an amazing effort.''

Jordan said his energy level was down all night, and he was on automatic
in the final minutes.

``Once I got in the act, I didn't have time to think about it,'' he
said. ``It was more or less instincts.''

The Jazz, stunned by their first home loss in 24 games, had no idea
Jordan wasn't feeling well.

``I don't think he was sick,'' said Bryon Russell, who tried to guard
Jordan most of the night but left him for a double-team on the crucial
3-pointer. ``Did he look sick to you guys?''

On the bench, Jordan did. In the first half, when he got a breather,
sweat beaded on his head like a windshield in a rainstorm.

He seemed to pick his spots. He had just four points in the first
quarter as Utah raced to a 13-point lead.

The lead hit 16 before Jordan's 17 second-quarter points brought the
Bulls back.

In the third quarter, Jordan managed just four points. Then came the
fourth-quarter eruption.

At the start of the game, the Bulls' dynasty seemed on the verge of
crumbling. Jordan was sick. Dennis Rodman was in trouble with the NBA
front office again, this time for his anti-Mormon comments. And the Jazz
fanatics were loudly anticipating crowning a remarkable home season with
their biggest victory yet.

The Jazz raced to a 16-point lead early in the second quarter. But they
were under no illusions that the Bulls were finished.

``When you get down like that from the start and have any competitive
spirit in you, you dig in a little bit deeper and fight a little bit
harder,'' John Stockton said.

No one is more competitive than Jordan.

``We had made a lot of mistakes, but I didn't have the energy to yell at
people,'' Jordan said. ``I just had to sit back and wait until our
defense kicked in and for some of the guys to get over their nerves and
fight our way back into it.''

Pippen struggled through a 5-for-17 shooting night, but had 17 points
and 10 rebounds. On defense, he swarmed all over the floor, and on
offense was able to take advantage of the smaller Jeff Hornacek a few
times on post plays.

It was the threat of that play that freed up Jordan for his big

Toni Kukoc emerged from hibernation to make 3-of-4 3-pointers. Luc
Longley had 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

The precision offense of the Jazz, meanwhile, fell apart like a cheap
watch when a victory in the Delta Center, where they had lost only three
times in 51 games, would have brought them within one win of the title.

But the Jazz could not overcome Chicago's defense and their own

All three of their big offensive weapons - Karl Malone, Stockton and
Hornacek - failed to come through. Together, Utah's big three were
2-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter.

``I don't practice lying,'' Malone said. ``I'm really heartbroken as a
player in a position like this.''

Chicago's defense kept Malone away from the basket. The league's MVP
scored a team-high 19 points, but was just 1-for-6 from the field in the
second half and scored only one point in the fourth quarter.

``We forced Malone a couple of feet out from where he's much more
comfortable shooting the ball,'' Pippen said, ``and it made the

Stockton made a crucial 3-pointer with 3:05 to play, but he had just
five assists for the game, and only one in the final period.

``When we don't do what we're supposed to do as a group, we end up
taking a lot of outside shots, fadeaways, desperation shots,'' he said.

Now the Jazz must rise from crushing disappointment to try to force the
series to a seventh game.

``The sun will come up. I know that,'' Malone said. ``It will be a
little tough. But I can't afford to act like this is over, because it's
not. And I can't afford to make my teammates think that I'm totally out
of it, because obviously I'm not.''

Jordan will have two days to try to improve his health. Pippen isn't
sure he wants Jordan to feel a whole lot better.

``If he's not 100 percent,'' Pippen said, ``I think we'll be better off.''

Tiger favored to win U.S. Open

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AP Sports Writer

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- As Tiger Woods embarks on the second leg of the
Grand Slam today, the reasons why he should win the U.S. Open are as
numerous as the reasons why he won't.

Woods was truly the Master at Augusta National in April. But this
tournament is truly open.

Since Jack Nicklaus won his fourth U.S. Open in 1980, there has been
only one player who has won this tournament more than once - Curtis
Strange in 1988 and 1989.

The 97th U.S. Open began today at Congressional Country Club under a
cover of thin clouds with a chance of some showers in the afternoon.
Brad Bryant became the first casualty when he withdrew because of the
flu. He was replaced by Steve Hart.

Woods, defending champion Steve Jones and Tom Lehman had a noon tee

Woods may have a game from another world, but there may not be another
course anywhere more suited to his game than Augusta, where drives so
wild they wind up in another fairway can still leave open shots to the

Congressional, the longest course in U.S. Open history at 7,213 yards
for par 70, is another story.

``At Augusta, it was like a driving range, bombs away on the driving,''
Woods said. ``You've got to be in the short grass here. This is a very
demanding driving golf course.''

Woods never needed more than a 4-iron to reach par 5s in two at the
Masters - he used a wedge on No. 15. At Congressional, he hasn't even
bothered trying to reach the two par 5s, measuring 607 and 583 yards.

A walk through U.S. Open rough produces the constant sound of grass
whipping the tops of shoes. The longest grass at Augusta couldn't hide a

``Here, it is different,'' Scotland's Colin Montgomerie said of Woods'
chances at Congressional. ``It takes possibly his greatest asset, which
is length, more out of the equation and gives us mere mortals more of an
opportunity to compete.''

The conditions of the U.S. Open are so demanding that no one has won by
more than two strokes since David Graham in 1981.

``It's going to be tough to win by 12 shots,'' Lehman said.

It's Woods' 12-stroke victory at the Masters, a record-setting
18-under-par 270, that make him a factor anywhere.

Woods is trying to become the first player since Nicklaus in 1972 to win
both the Masters and the U.S. Open. No one has won the four majors that
make up the professional Grand Slam - Ben Hogan came the closest in
1953, winning the Masters, U.S. Open and the British Open. His legs,
battered from a car crash, did not allow him to play in the PGA

``It's realistic because it's possible,'' Nick Faldo said. ``It's pretty
difficult because nobody has done it. The pressure of just getting your
game timed right to win one major is pretty impressive.''

The allure of Woods is his ability to thrive under any conditions,
topping even the wildest of expectations.

``When you think about favorites, you've got to realize that guys who
are good can play any course,'' Lehman said. ``You can put him on the
moon, he can still play good golf. Tiger is no different.

``So, to say he's not one of the favorites is ridiculous.''

Woods won't be the only favorite. No one can play Augusta like Woods,
but U.S. Open venues bring a lot of others into the hunt.

Ernie Els, the 1994 U.S. Open champion, has the length off the tee and
the brute strength to power the ball out of the rough. Montgomerie plays
well in this tournament because he consistently hits the ball straight.

There's also Nick Price, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III.
Jones was nobody's favorite last year. For the last five winners of the
U.S. Open, it was their first and only major championship.

It's also the one that Faldo wants more than any of them.

``It's going to demand a lot of good, solid play for the whole week,''
Faldo said. ``It's as simple as that.''

Pecos Enterprise
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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