CHICAGO, MAY 26 -- Detroit Pistons assistant coach Brendan Malone pointed to the "21" on the statistics sheet following the Chicago Bulls' 107-102 victory in Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals. It was the number of Chicago offensive rebounds.

That, not the hoopla surrounding Michael Jordan's silence, was the story of how Chicago closed this best-of-seven series to 2-1. Even Jordan's 47 points, 18 of which came in the fourth quarter, weren't completely the reason. Jordan frequently scores more than 40 in the playoffs, but it hasn't led to much success against Detroit.

But Scottie Pippen helped out with 29 points, and the Bulls outrebounded Detroit by 46-36, with Pippen and Horace Grant each getting 11 rebounds.

Reserve Ed Nealy played down the stretch, scoring eight points with four rebounds in 22 effective minutes, as the Bulls rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit, then held off a late Pistons' charge that almost erased seven points in a minute.

Mark Aguirre (22 points) missed a three-pointer with five seconds left that would have tied the game, and Jordan finished his scoring with two free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining.

But there was a preoccupation with why Jordan wasn't talking. He had clammed up after Game 2, reportedly angry with some of his teammates' efforts. He didn't talk Thursday or Friday, and except for an NBA-requested postgame interview session, he didn't talk today.

"When I came in and was frustrated, I said I was upset with the way we played," said Jordan. "I never mentioned individuals . . . . I felt that since I had to do all the talking, I wanted the other players to step up and give their explanations why we hadn't been playing well, and take myself out of the situation."

"We've been hearing the hype about we're not physical enough for the Pistons," Pippen said. "That just wasn't true. We just hadn't played to our capabilities . . . . The team that's been able to own the offensive rebounds, and get the stickbacks, it's going to make a difference."

For any Detroit opponent, 107 points is a scoring bonanza. The Pistons had held 24 of their last 27 playoff opponents under 100 points, and today's game was just the second in 11 postseason games this season that someone had cracked triple figures against them.

Though Detroit shot 50 percent, the Pistons' offense wasn't its usual balanced self. Isiah Thomas scored 36 points, including four three-pointers. But Joe Dumars was four of 11, scoring eight points. Bill Laimbeer missed all six shots and didn't score in 34 minutes before fouling out.

Jordan played a lot at point guard today, especially in the fourth quarter, with Pippen moving from small forward to off guard. It gave the Bulls a big lineup with Nealy, Grant and Bill Cartwright, and Jordan beat the ubiquitous Detroit double-teams.

"You can't rotate on Jordan and still give him his points," Laimbeer said. "That can't happen. When you rotate, you let somebody else beat you. We gave Scottie Pippen too many opportunities."

In the first two games Chicago double-teamed Thomas, and Dumars burned them by scoring 27 and 31 points. Today, Jordan stayed with Dumars.

Said Thomas: "Chicago made adjustments. With Dumars scoring well, every time I came off a pick they were double-teaming me. Jordan was leaving Joe and coming to trap me, and therefore Joe was open a lot. Today, he stayed home."

All of this seemed irrelevant when the Pistons had a 69-55 lead with five minutes left in the third. Grant had worked hard all game, but he picked up his fifth foul with 8:58 left in the quarter and sat. Though Laimbeer wasn't scoring, he had eight rebounds.

But the Bulls went on a 13-2 run in the next 3:22, getting four offensive rebounds. Jordan scored four points, but Pippen had the last seven, and his turnaround jumper with 2:38 left in the third brought Chicago within 71-68. It got the crowd back in the game, and the Bulls trailed by 77-76 after three quarters.

Detroit committed four of its 17 turnovers in the first four minutes of the fourth. Chicago took the lead with a 10-4 burst midway through, with Jordan scoring six, including a left-to-right drive with 5:03 left to give the Bulls a 90-86 lead. At 92-88, his crossover dribble and lay-in made it a six-point game.

He followed that with two free throws, and after Thomas's jumper, Jordan threw in a clutch three-pointer with 2:26 left to give Chicago a 99-90 lead. Most of this was with Dennis Rodman, voted the league's best defensive player, all over him.

Said Jordan: "He's the best defensive player. I look at myself as the best offensive player, to be honest about it. I took it as a challenge. We're very respectful of each other's abilities, {but} I thought I had the advantage out there."

Still, three-pointers from Aguirre and Thomas brought the Pistons within 105-102 with 15.2 seconds left. Dumars and Thomas then tied up Pippen with 10 seconds left, and Dumars won the jump ball. After a timeout, Aguirre had a shot from about 26 feet, but it hit off the rim and Jordan grabbed the loose ball.

And he's still not talking.

"He didn't make any comments, or point any fingers at anybody on this team," Pippen said. "I think he was just frustrated and maybe the media is making something bigger out of it than it really is. He's just not talking to you guys. That's all."