Michael Jordan returned to his record-setting ways yesterday, scoring 55 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 113-111 victory over the New York Knicks in New York.
"I think it's starting to come back to me," said Jordan, who had looked a little rusty in his first four games back in the National Basketball Association after a 21-month absence.
In the fifth, he was superb. Though he rested during much of the fourth quarter, Jordan produced some play worthy of his earlier days.
He set up the winning basket in the final seconds, eluding a double-team to pass to Bill Wennington under the basket. "Don't count on me to shoot it every time," he said. "I can pass."
He did shoot, though, connecting on 21 of 37 attempts from the floor and sinking 10 of 11 free throws.
His 55 points were a record against the Knicks at their Madison Square Garden home. It was also the highest total in the NBA this season, beating the 53 points scored by Willie Burton in December.
It was the 34th 50-point-plus game in Jordan's career and came five years to the day after he scored a career-high 69 against Cleveland on March 28. "Everyone was hopping to the ball the whole game," said Wennington, who scored his only basket of the game after Knicks centre Patrick Ewing left him to double-team Jordan.
"So we gave the open side to Michael to create. He was going to look from wherever the rotation came from and I knew Patrick would leave me. I just stepped under the basket and put it in."
The game was as hyped as any Bulls-Knicks play-off encounter with seats reportedly selling for up to $1,500 (£1,000).
The film director, Spike Lee, was among the many celebrities watching, but Jordan said the hoopla did not distract him.
"Once I'm on the basketball court, I'm in my dream world," he said. "I'm at ease when I'm out here on the court."
In Sacramento, Mitch Richmond scored 35 points and Walt Williams added 26, including four in a 12-2 game-ending run, as the Kings upset the Orlando Magic 117-106.
The Kings rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, outscoring the Magic 36-18 in the final period.
Shaquille O'Neal scored 32 points, Horace Grant had 22 and Anfernee Hardaway 21 for the NBA-best Magic (52-18), who have lost 10 of their last 13 road games.Reuse content