The Chicago Bulls advanced to their first NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 13 years as league MVP Derrick Rose scored 19 points in a 93-73 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.
Rose, who has been averaging 30 points a game in the playoffs, also had 12 assists, while Carlos Boozer had 23 points for the Bulls, who won the best-of-seven series four games to two.
“It’s not surprising me at all, where we’re at right now,” said Rose, who was chosen as a first-team all-star earlier in the day. “We know that we have something special in front of us. If anything, our defense won this game.”
By winning in six games, Chicago has reached their first conference final since 1998, when the Michael Jordan-led Bulls were en route to a second three-peat.
The Bulls advance to play the Miami Heat with the winner earning a spot in the NBA Finals. The first game is set for tomorrow in Chicago.
“When we showed up for training camp, we knew we could be special,” Rose said. “We were ready to put in the work and not be concerned with statistics. We just were concerned with winning each night.”
Luol Deng scored 13 points, while Joakim Noah finished with 11 and three blocked shots for the Bulls.
Boozer, who has had trouble with a toe injury, went 10 of 16 from the field, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists.
“What goes underrated about them is the depth of their team,” Atlanta’s Al Horford said. “They just wear on you. They just kept coming, kept coming every game. It seemed like their starters were fresh.”
Chicago came out quickly, led by 10 points heading into the second quarter and never trailed in the contest.
Joe Johnson scored 19 points, while Josh Smith was the only other player in double figures with 18 for Atlanta, who went a dismal one of 11 from the three-point line.
The loss marks another playoff disappointment for the Hawks, who have the dubious distinction of having never made it past the second of the post-season since the franchise moved from St Louis, Missouri, 43 years ago.
“They just got on a roll,” Johnson said. “Boozer probably had his best game that he played all series. You have him scoring and playing big like that, obviously they’re going to be tough to beat.”
Chicago next task is to shut down the Heat’s big three of -LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“It’s going to be a great matchup,” Rose said. “We’re fine with being considered the underdog.”