Jordan falls short for Bulls

Basketball

Michael Jordan, the top scorer for the Chicago Bulls in their 78-73 defeat by Utah Jazz which levelled the NBA Finals in the fourth game on Sunday, was told that he had looked mortal.

"Mortal in the sense that we lost or mortal in the sense that I didn't score 60 points?'' Jordan, who scored only 22 points, asked.

"There's different ways you can look at it, the way my output was tonight. I didn't really score what you're accustomed to seeing, my average of 31, 32 or 33 or whatever."

The nine-times scoring champion, looking for his fifth NBA title, scored just 10 points in the first three quarters, then got 12 in the fourth.

"I felt I was able to find the rhythm. You were probably happy when I was stroking it pretty good," he said, mildly making fun of his questioner. In the fourth quarter, however, he also committed two of his three turnovers.

"In terms of the outcome of the game, I made a couple of [bad] passes, I missed a couple of shots and I guess I looked like a mortal person at the time."

Jordan, whose basket in the last seconds won the first game for the Bulls, said he knew that for some people the games turn into "expectations of what Michael Jordan does, and make people like you realise that there's going to be games where I can't live up to the fantasy or the hype that people have built Michael Jordan to be.

"And I'm accustomed to living with that. I'd rather make it exciting and score 60 points and win - so that you feel happy - but there's going to be nights when I can't do that.

"And I have to accept that and look at it as a motivational situation, that next game I hope I can please you."

Smiling as the roomful of reporters laughed, Jordan added: "If it doesn't happen, then I've got to keep looking further in the future."

John Stockton had a hand in 10 of Utah's last 12 points - as Chicago scored just two - but his long gridiron football-style throw to Karl Malone, just inches out of reach of Jordan, will be best remembered.

When Malone, the main recipient of passes from the NBA's all-time assists leader, laid the ball in, it put the Jazz ahead with 45 seconds to go.

"I think Stock knew it had to be the perfect pass," Malone said. "The pass he made is probably one you'll never forget in basketball," John Sloan, the Utah coach, said.

"Because I don't know how he made it and got it past [Jordan] the way he did, and Karl being able to catch it. They've done a lot of that over their careers, but it's one of those things that came at the right time."

"It was a beautiful pass," veteran bench man Antoine Carr said. "It was kind of reminiscent of quarterbacks. Of course, the catch was great also."

Jordan said he had been caught off stride, and never believed he could get to the ball - but he was a fingertip away.

Stockton wound up with 17 points, second on the team to Malone's 23. He shot six-for-11 from the field including two-of-three from three-point range.

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