Ron Harper doing his best Michael Jordan impression, Toni Kukoc on fire, an easy victory and free food. What more could Chicago Bulls fans want?
Kukoc scored 28, Harper missed just one shot in the first half on his way to a season-high 25 points Tuesday as the Bulls cruised to a 103-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets. All five Chicago (5-13) starters finished in double figures.
"We just had fun playing," Harper said. "The fans enjoyed this ballgame. We enjoyed this ballgame."
Of course the fans enjoyed it, they got free food. Taco Bell gives each fan a taco when the Bulls score 100 points in a victory, and this was the first time the Bulls reached that milestone this season.
Fans even booed Brent Barry when he missed a free throw with the Bulls up 99-82 with 1:47 left. Kukoc finally came through, knocking down two free throws with 1:30 left.
"You guys want to talk pressure? Try feeding 23,000 Chicagoans," Barry said, shaking his head. "I've never gotten booed while we're up 17 points for missing a free throw. Thank God Toni made the free throws and got them the tacos. I'm used to (the) L.A. (Clippers), where if we scored 70 points, every fan got a free car.
"Of course, it'd be like six free cars."
Jayson Williams led the plummeting Nets (3-14) with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Four other players finished in double figures, including 17 from Keith Van Horn, but the Nets fell for the ninth time in 10 games and are 1-8 on the road.
"At the beginning of the year, we were up there with Houston and the other leaders," Williams said. "Now we need to get back our confidence level and feel we can win some of these games. Especially winning down the stretch. The guys still believe in each other, but we need all of our guys back."
Harper got the Bulls rolling with his near-perfect first half. He was 7-for-7 in the first quarter, and didn't miss his first shot
a 3-pointer until 7:56 left in the half. He made his next two shots, and then tied his previous season high of 20 on a free throw with 3:11 still left in the half.
Harper also had two assists, two blocked shots and a steal in the first half.
"Harp kind of reminded me of Michael," Randy Brown said.
No way, said Harper, who used to practice with Jordan and Scottie Pippen at Jordan's house.
"I'm just Ron Harper," he said. "I was going out, I was playing, I was just having fun."
So were his teammates. Harper cooled off in the third quarter, so Kukoc took over. He scored 10 straight points to give the Bulls a 76-68 lead. Barry added some entertainment when he slammed down a highlight-reel dunk over Williams.
After stealing the ball, Barry sprinted down the court, starting his wind-up in the corner like he was in a slam-dunk contest again.
The Bulls led by 11 going into the fourth quarter, but New Jersey managed to cut the lad to 88-82 on former Bull Scott Burrell's layup with 5:53 to play. But he was called for two quick technicals, Barry made both free throws and the Bulls were never in trouble again.
"What I said was nothing much. Just some words," Burrell said. "I thought I got fouled and said something, and got the T. The second one came after that and I said something a little worse."
Notes: Burrell was making his first trip back to the United Center. There was no pregame presentation of his championship ring, though. The free agent didn't sign with the Nets until Feb. 3, the day before the season began, so the Bulls mailed him his ring a few weeks ago. ... Randy Brown and Doug Overton were called for a double technical in the fourth quarter. ... Before the game, the Bulls placed Rusty LaRue (sprained left ankle) and Charles Jones (right calf strain) on the injured list and activated Keith Booth and Cory Carr. ... Jeff Sanders, who's been on the injured list all season with a stress fracture in left foot, reinjured the foot last week during a light workout.
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