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Monday, June 1, 1998

Bulls prevail at finish, back into finals

AP Basketball Writer
CHICAGO, June 1 -- If this ``Last Dance'' ends with a sixth
championship, the Chicago Bulls will have earned a title
like never before.

The Bulls went to a seventh game in the conference finals
for the first time since Jordan was ringless. Showing their
considerable experience in the final five minutes, Chicago
beat the Indiana Pacers 88-83 Sunday night to move on to the
NBA Finals.

``The first order of business is to tell Indiana they gave
us one heck of a series and congratulate them on their
effort,'' coach Phil Jackson said. ``It was a disappointment
to them, I know, but it was a great series.''

The Bulls relied on some of their usual tricks -- Michael
Jordan and Scottie Pippen -- and a big contribution from
their streakiest player, Toni Kukoc.

They won this one with a mixture of poise and experience.
They scored nine of the game's final 13 points, made fewer
mistakes in the final five minutes and grabbed almost all
the offensive rebounds all night long.

``It's about heart, and you saw a lot of heart out there on
the basketball court,'' Jordan said. ``No one's taken
anything away from us. We still have what we have and an
opportunity to maintain it.''

The finals begin Wednesday night at the Delta Center in Salt
Lake City.

This will be the first time the Bulls have played the same
opponent in the finals in consecutive years. Their first
four championships were won against the Los Angeles Lakers,
Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics
before they won their fifth last year against the Jazz.

``We're going in with a lot of confidence,'' Jordan said.
``Look at our records. We haven't lost in the Finals -- and
that's a great confidence to have. Sure, it was a battle to
get there. No one said it would be easy, but we're there.
Now let's just do the job.''

They did the job Sunday after the Pacers tied the game at 79
heading into the final five minutes.

Pippen scored on a jumper after grabbing one of Chicago's 22
offensive rebounds, and Jordan drew a double-team and fed
Luc Longley for a corner jumper. The Pacers, meanwhile, were
committing three turnovers and missing a shot.

A putback by Antonio Davis made it 85-83 with 2:12 left, but
Pippen came right back with a running hook shot with 1:59
left -- although he missed a chance to convert a three-point

Mark Jackson threw away a pass on Indiana's next possession
-- one of 13 miscues by the Pacers. The Bulls would miss
their next two shots, but they managed to run time off the
clock by grabbing offensive rebounds.

The Pacers got the ball back with about 30 seconds left
still trailing by four. Derrick McKey took the first open
shot that presented itself and missed. Jordan rebounded, the
Pacers fouled Ron Harper and his free throw with 8.9 seconds
left completed the scoring.

``We're good enough to beat Chicago, and we knew that all
along,'' Pacers coach Larry Bird said. ``We had them where
we wanted. We wanted to stay close. We just didn't make the
plays down the stretch.''

Jordan, who struggled with his shooting at times, still
finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and
two steals. He shot 15 free throws, making 10.

``His jump shot didn't work but his free throws did,'' Bird
said. ``He put his head down, went into traffic and drew

Kukoc contributed 21 points, including 13 in the third
quarter when no one else was producing, and Pippen had 17
points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Reggie Miller led Indiana with 22 points, but he was nowhere
to be found late in the fourth quarter as Jordan guarded him
tightly. He attempted only one shot in the final 12 minutes.

The key statistical difference was rebounding, as Chicago
grabbed 50 to Indiana's 34. On the offensive end, it was
22-4 in favor of the Bulls.

``Our defense held strong, and defense wins championships,''
Jordan said. ``I think that was very obvious.''

``We banged the boards very hard. When you're shooting that
bad (Chicago was outshot 48 to 38 percent), you have to go
to the boards. It gave us many opportunities to shoot the
ball (76 attempts to Indiana's 56).''

The Bulls will have two days to prepare for the Jazz, who
went through their eighth straight day today without a game.

``We may be a little tired, but our hearts are not tired,''
Jordan said.

Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has said he would be inclined
to offer all the players one-year contracts if they win
another championship. But Pippen says he won't accept a
one-year deal, Jackson insists he's leaving and Jordan, who
will be a free agent, is considering retiring.

So much uncertainty led to the Bulls' appearance Sunday
night that the team was greeted on its home court Sunday by
a mood of desperation.

The United Center was strangely quiet just a couple minutes
into the first quarter, a mood of apprehension so strong it
was eerie.

``I thought during the introductions that this could be the
last time I high-five Michael,'' teammate Jud Buechler said.

The collective state of disbelief only grew worse as the
Pacers were hitting their first eight shots of the game in
opening a 20-7 lead en route to a 27-19 advantage after one

Jordan surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's career playoff
scoring record of 5,762 points early in the second quarter
with two baskets.

Miller hit two 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds of the
first half to help Indiana pull to 48-45 at the break.

Kukoc hit four straight jumpers, including two 3-pointers,
early in the third, then drew center Rik Smits' fourth foul
with just under five minutes left and hit another 3-pointer
with 2:40 left for a 68-61 lead. But Indiana came back and
Jalen Rose scored the first four points of the fourth
quarter to make it 69-69.

Rangers split with Birds

BALTIMORE, June 1 (AP) -- With Will Clark missing from the
Texas lineup this weekend, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez
took it upon themselves to make up for his absence.

They delivered in memorable fashion.

Gonzalez had a grand slam and a solo shot in his second
straight two-homer game, and Rodriguez had two hits and an
RBI as the Rangers beat Baltimore 9-5 Sunday to gain a split
of the four-game series.

Clark was missing because of ``personal problems,''
according to Texas manager Johnny Oates. So, after getting
three hits each Saturday, Gonzalez and Rodriguez came up
with a suitable encore.

``They certainly came through, both of them,'' Oates said.
``Both came through big-time the last two games.''

It was the seventh career grand slam for Gonzalez, the
second this season, and it moved him past Dean Palmer into
sole possession of first place on Texas' career list.

The five RBIs gave Gonzalez nine in two games and an AL-best
71 in just 54 games.

``He left one today and I got it,'' said Rodriguez, who
upped his batting average to a league-leading .381.

It was unclear whether Clark would rejoin the team tonight
in Tampa Bay. Although the Rangers scored 19 runs in the two
wins, they know that Clark is an important facet of the

``We need Will Clark. It's not because we win the last two
games without him. We need him,'' Rodriguez said. ``He's
part of this club. He's one of the important hitters in this

Gonzalez's 17 homers still trails Mark McGwire, but he
doesn't care at all about that.

``I don't like comparisons. McGwire is playing in the
National League. Playing in the American League is
different,'' he said.

Gonzalez's grand slam came in the third inning off Scott
Erickson (5-6) and gave the Rangers a 5-1 lead. Unlike his
two long shots Saturday, this one barely cleared the
left-field wall and was measured at 354 feet.

``His swing reminds me a lot of Reggie Jackson's ball and
Mike Schmidt's ball,'' Oates said. ``You stand in the
outfield and you watch guys catch the ball over their head.
They all hit underneath the ball, they all hit them high in
the air and they all have extra carry on their ball.''

In the ninth, Gonzalez connected on an 0-2 pitch from
Armando Benitez, his 10th home run in May. It was his 30th
career multi-homer game.

``When you're hitting great you see the ball good. You like
to hit 10 or 15 times in a game because you feel great,'' he

The last time Benitez gave up a homer, he plunked Tino
Martinez in the back to start a brawl May 19 against the New
York Yankees. This time, Benitez kept his cool, and
Rodriguez followed with a single.

Kevin Elster also homered for the Rangers, who maintained
their 5½ game lead over second-place Anaheim in the AL West.
Darren Oliver (3-5) allowed three runs and seven hits in
five innings, and Tim Patterson got four outs for his first

Mark McLemore had two hits, two walks and scored three runs.
He was one of seven Rangers to have a multi-hit game.

The Orioles stranded 14 runners and went 5-for-20 with
runners in scoring position. Rafael Palmeiro was 0-for-5 and
left nine runners on base.

``The big story is leaving people on base,'' manager Ray
Miller said. ``We just left too many on.''

Wings darken Stars' hopes with 3-2 win

DETROIT, June 1 (AP) -- The Dallas Stars gambled and lost.
Now the Detroit Red Wings are just one win away from a
repeat trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

With injured Red Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov
watching from a private suite, Vyacheslav Kozlov broke a tie
at 11:30 of the third period to lift the Red Wings to a 3-2
victory over Dallas on Sunday in Game 4 of the Western
Conference finals.

Kirk Maltby and Steve Yzerman also scored for the Red Wings,
who took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Pat Verbeek and
Sergei Zubov scored for the Stars.

``We're scoring important goals at the right time,'' Detroit
forward Darren McCarty said. ``We're hoping that continues.
Now we've got to win one more hockey game in Dallas.''

The Stars, who are 1-16-2 at Joe Louis Arena since the
franchise moved from Minneapolis, will host Game 5 on
Wednesday night in Dallas. If a sixth game is necessary, it
will be played Friday night in Detroit.

Fourteen teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a
best-of-7 series, most recently the Edmonton Oilers over the
Colorado Avalanche in the first round of this year's

``I think we all realize our situation,'' Dallas forward
Mike Modano said. ``We're not yet in those record books. We
have something to strive for and play for. We have two days
to regroup and rally around what we have to do for

The Stars, who scored three straight goals to make Detroit
sweat out a 5-3 win in Game 3, battled back from a 2-0
deficit to tie this one on Zubov's power-play goal 55
seconds into the third period.

But big players make big plays in the biggest games, and
that's what happened this time as Detroit took advantage of
a Stars' gamble.

Yzerman set up the winning goal, grabbing a loose puck and
weaving his way across two lines. Yzerman turned at the top
of the left circle and fed the puck to Larry Murphy.

Dallas goalie Ed Belfour had almost no chance as Kozlov,
camped at the left side of the net, deflected Murphy's shot
from the top of the slot over the goaltender's right
shoulder at 11:30 of the third period.

``Even at 2-0 down, we thought we could still win the game,
and at 2-2, we thought we would,'' Dallas coach Ken
Hitchcock said. ``But they got a great goal from three skill

``We gambled, going for a 2-on-0 at the net, but instead,
they got a 4-on-2 going the other way.''

The rest was up to Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. The Stars,
who outshot Detroit 30-23, peppered Osgood the rest of the
way but couldn't put the puck in the net.

Dallas pulled Belfour for an extra attacker with 1:18
remaining and put tremendous pressure on Osgood. A hard shot
by Zubov, which Osgood caught in his glove, almost flipped
over the Detroit goaltender.

``He came up big at the end on Zubov's shot,'' Verbeek said.
``I don't know how he saw it, because it was by my chin and
I didn't see it, either.''

Osgood admitted the final minute was tense.

``They were shooting the puck every chance they got,'' said
Osgood, who was named the game's No. 1 star. ``I had about
three guys in front of me. They were really coming after us
at the end. They were pretty desperate.''

The Stars went into the game 0-for-17 on the power play
during the series and their woes continued in the early
periods. Maltby scored the game's first goal at 7:02 of the
first period while the Red Wings were shorthanded.

Yzerman gave Detroit a 2-0 lead at 12:10 of the first while
Jere Lehtinen was serving a tripping penalty for Belfour.

Verbeek made it 2-1 with an unassisted goal at 14:31 of the
second, coming from behind the net and jamming the puck
between Osgood and the post.

Konstantinov, who helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup
last year, had not watched his teammates play at Joe Louis
Arena since the June 13 limousine accident which ended his

Konstantinov and team massage therapist Sergei Mnatsakanov,
injured in the same accident, viewed the game from team
owner Mike Ilitch's private suite. Their presence was
acknowledged with an announcement on the public address
system, during a timeout with 10:34 left in the first

They received a thunderous 95-second ovation from the
sellout crowd of 19,983 -- one of the loudest in the 19-year
history of the building.

``Vlady's really looking good and he's smiling,'' Osgood
said. ``One of the greatest moments was when they put him on
the (scoreboard) screen and the crowd gave him a standing

``But it was the smile. That's what really lets you know how
happy he is to be here.''

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