CHICAGO, MAY 25 -- The hobbling Chicago Bulls face a must-win game, and the revving Detroit Pistons hope to put the NBA Eastern Conference title out of reach when the rivals continue their best-of-seven series Saturday at Chicago Stadium.
The Pistons enter the game with a 2-0 lead built on their home floor in Auburn Hills, Mich.
In Game 3, all eyes will be on Michael Jordan, the always pleasant and ever-available superstar who has been in a snit since Tuesday night's embarrassing 102-93 loss at The Palace. At halftime, Jordan, who has been victimized by Detroit's double and triple teaming -- the so-called "Jordan Rules" -- berated his teammates and told them they would have to play harder. Then, out of character, Jordan made himself unavailable to the media.
"To get the team going, we need emotion, not anger," said Coach Phil Jackson after the Bulls' practice session today. "There's no doubt about it, there's no tomorrow. Tomorrow is fishing, or out on the golf course. . . .
"The controversy only is in the media. It's not among ourselves."
Jordan has hip and wrist injuries and John Paxson has an ankle injury, but Jackson said both have improved. They should be ready for Saturday's nationally televised encounter.
"I'm feeling good and Michael is all right," Paxson said. "We had two great practices. I can't speak for Michael but he was talking it up in practice today and if he doesn't want to speak with the media, it's his business.
"This whole thing is being blown out of proportion. All I know is, we'll be ready on Saturday afternoon."
The series will continue with another televised holiday matinee Monday, and if the Pistons win both games, the series will end. If not, it continues at The Palace Wednesday night.
"I'd like to get it over in as few games as possible," said Detroit Coach Chuck Daly. "But we need to win at least one of these two games which would really set us up."
Daly said as far as he is concerned, the series starts Saturday. He also expects the Bulls to use Jordan's actions to their advantage.
"He's their emotional and physical leader, and they'll play better because of what he said and did," Daly said. "This could be the best game of the series, and we're expecting an emotional game from them."
Daly said Detroit's reserves have played especially well in this series.
"But a number of our starters can play better offensively and defensively and I think they will," he added.
Joe Dumars is not among his concerns. Dumars has led the Pistons in scoring in both games with 27 points and 31 points. John Salley has been the first off the bench and has contributed heavily to Detroit's success.
"When you get somebody down, you have to keep them down," said Salley. "I think it will be a tough game Saturday. I think they'll step it up."