The Atlanta Hawks took the reigning champions by the horns, winning 103- 95 at the United Center in Chicago to tie the best-of-seven game Eastern Conference semi-finals 1-1. Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock did the damage, Smith scoring 27 points and Blaylock 26, including eight back-breaking three-pointers.
Jordan collected 27 points and Scottie Pippen 24, but neither could rescue Chicago in the second half as they had in previous play-off games.
Atlanta, who could have won the first encounter, but lost 100-97 on Pippen's late three-pointer and Jordan's 20 third-quarter points, host games three and four today and tomorrow before the series returns to Chicago next Tuesday.
The Bulls won 69 regular season games but finished with three defeats in the last four and have not looked like the team who lost only 10 games out of 72 last season and rolled through the play-offs to their fourth title in six years.
The Bulls crowd could not believe their eyes when Atlanta began their fightback with Bulls leading 68-67 and three minutes left in the third quarter. A 19-3 run took the Hawks into the lead, 86-71, with Chris tian Laettner scoring four of his 18 points and Mutombo five of his 19.
The Bulls again tried to rally behind Jordan and Pippen, but after they made it 93-86, Laettner scored on a drive and Smith hit two free throws to put the Hawks comfortably in front with 1min 26sec left.
After losing the two opening games, the Los Angeles Lakers were always ahead in beating the visiting Utah Jazz 104-84 in game three of the Western Conference semi-final.
Shaquille O'Neal was limited to 11 points and 10 rebounds before being ejected, but reserve Kobe Bryant led a balanced Lakers attack with 19 points - all but two in the fourth quarter. Van Exel added 17 points and Elden Campbell scored 14.
O'Neal played only 18 minutes before being called for two technical fouls and getting an automatic ejection with 7:36 left. The Lakers, however, were safely ahead.
Portland Trail Blazers, who were beaten by the Lakers 3-1 in the first- round Western Conference series, have dismissed their coach P J Carlesimo.Reuse content