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re a deafening crowd of 18,676 fans at Chicago Stadium, the Bulls defeated the Pistons, 94-83, in the opening game of the four-of-seven-game Eastern Conference championship series.
Jordan, whose election as the league's most valuable player will be announced Monday, was held to 22 points, 9 points below his playoff average, on 6-for-15 shooting along with three boards, three steals and six assists.
But Jordan's teammates stepped forward -- the Bulls' bench combined for 30 points and starters Scottie Pippen (18 points), Bill Cartwright (16 points) and Horace Grant (10 rebounds) stood up to Detroit's physical play, holding off the Pistons whenever they threatened to take control.
"I had a bad game, but we still won," Jordan said afterward. "I think that shows the maturity of our team. I think this shows them that we've got a team, instead of a one-man situation."
Today's game set the tone for the remainder of the series. There was very little open-court play, and there were very few scintillating offensive moves. This series will be physical. Bodies will fly. Tempers will flare. Skin will bleed. Character will be tested.
There were times away from the ball when the action resembled a rugby scrum. Players shoved, held and did whatever else they felt they could get away with.
"It's a different style of ball when you play us," said Mark Aguirre, who led the Pistons with 25 points. "They're not going to be able to play us like Philly, where they got a lot of running and dunks for scores."
During the first half, Jordan exchanged angry words with both Mark Aguirre and Dennis Rodman. Jordan's confrontation with Rodman occurred after Rodman fouled Jordan away from the ball, trailing the play.
A major part of the Pistons' game plan is to keep a body on Jordan at all times, bumping him, shoving him, trying to wear him down. But today, Jordan reacted angrily, shoving Rodman, then screaming in his face. Jordan's message was clear. No matter what tactics the Pistons try, he will not be intimidated.
"We cannot let them intimidate us with the little cheap stuff," Jordan said. "We're not going to let that happen. We're not going to take any junk from anybody."
Yet the Pistons made the game competitive, despite the fact they had numerous factors working against them. Detroit ended a grueling six-game series against the Boston Celtics on Friday, whereas the Bulls had not played since Tuesday.
But the sizzling shooting of Aguirre (9-for-16) and Vinnie Johnson (21 points, 10-for-19) brought the Pistons back from a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Capping a 15-4 run, James Edwards hit a 10-foot jump shot to give the Pistons their first lead of the second half, 54-53, with 4 minutes 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We don't make excuses," Johnson said, with typical Piston swagger. "We're champions back-to-back. I'm not saying we're fatigued. I played great. If some guys seemed tired, you should go talk to them."
Tired or not, the Pistons couldn't contain the Bulls once they caught them. Jordan was held scoreless in third quarter, yet Chicago held together well enough to take a 68-65 lead into the final 12 minutes. Then during the first five and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, with Jordan and Pippen on the bench, the Bulls extended their lead to 9 points, 81-72. Detroit never got close than 7 points thereafter.
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