Bulls blow out Hawks
Chicago moves to first final since ’98
ATLANTA — Derrick Rose simply had to run the show. The MVP had plenty of help in this one, and the Chicago Bulls are off to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since M.J. was at the controls.
Carlos Boozer scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Rose doled out 12 assists, pushing Chicago out to a big lead in the first half that carried the Bulls past Atlanta, 93-73, in the Eastern Conference semifinals last night, finishing the Hawks in six games.
Chicago advanced to its first conference final since 1998, when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on their way to a second three-peat. The Bulls fell on hard times after that glorious era, including three straight 60-loss seasons, but they have put together a deep, talented team that won more games than anyone during the regular season.
Yep, even more than the ballyhooed Miami Heat, whose Big Three are waiting in the next round. Game 1 is Sunday in Chicago.
“It’s not surprising me at all, where we’re at right now,’’ Rose said. “We know that we have something special in front of us.’’
Rose (19 points) was right in the middle of things, but he took just 14 shots, his lowest of the postseason and wound up with his second-fewest points. This was a textbook performance by the guys around him, each of them comfortable in a supporting role.
The most impressive number: Chicago had assists on all but seven of its 31 baskets. The Hawks shot 37 percent (27 of 74) and rarely got an open look.
“If anything, our defense won this game,’’ Rose said.
At the other end, Boozer kept winding up with the ball with no one around, and kept knocking down jump shots. He went 10 of 16 from the field and handed out five assists.
“Booze had everything going,’’ Rose said.
Luol Deng hit some big baskets early and finished with 13 points. Joakim Noah scored 11 and stifled the Hawks with three blocks. Keith Bogans made only one basket, but it was a big 3-pointer as the Bulls put it away in the third quarter.
And, boy, did everyone play some defense.
“What goes underrated about them is the depth of their team,’’ said Atlanta’s Al Horford, who had a miserable night and a tough series overall.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 19 points. Josh Smith was the only other player in double figures with 18. The Hawks went 1 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc.