BASKETBALL: Jordan finds first gear as Bulls feel the pace

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The Independent Online

Michael Jordan began his first NBA game since defecting to baseball 17 months ago by missing his first six shots as the Chicago Bulls succumbed to a 103-96 overtime victory at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Despite making only seven of 28 field goal attempts, the basketball legend still impressed as he went on to score 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in 43 minutes. "I can't imagine a guy coming off so limited practice time and doing what he did," the Indiana coach, Larry Brown, said.

Jordan himself was more cautious in his appraisal of the performance. "This is my first game back," he said. "I knew it's not going to happen in one game. I'm back. That's all that matters. I know we want to win, but for me, I've got to take my time and work my way back in.

"As you can see my shot is a little off. It was pretty disappointing from my standpoint, a loss that is. I truly love the game, my team-mates and the atmosphere. I'm back until the end of the season, I know that."

"Michael showed his brilliance in many ways," the Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, said. "He played a little out of sync."

Chicago trailed throughout until Scottie Pippen's three-pointer with 19 seconds left levelled the score at 92-92 and sent the game into overtime. But Indiana outpointed Chicago 11-1 in overtime, with Byron Scott and Mark Jackson leading the scoring.

Reggie Miller, who scored 28 of Pacers' points and suffered a thigh contusion when he collided with Jordan, said: "Michael Jordan is the best player to ever return. This was as close to a final game as you can get; I'm surprised Mike got to play as many minutes as he did."