Bulls push aside Hawks with Heat waiting in wings
ATLANTA Joakim Noah, often quick with a quip or casual conversation, stared down at the ground as he tied his shoes and then retreated to the off-limits locker room.
Luol Deng waved off a camera crew looking for a pregame comment. Derrick Rose offered short, serious answers.
“This is the biggest game of our life right here,” Rose said.
To say the Bulls were focused on closing out the Hawks on Thursday night at Philips Arena is like saying Tom Thibodeau enjoys watching game film.
And the Bulls accomplished their goal, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1998 with a 93-73 triumph, winning the series 4-2.
Bring on the Heat.
“It’s gonna be a great matchup,” Carlos Boozer said.
Carlos Boozer posted his second straight double-double and best game of the playoffs with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Derrick Rose added 19 points and 12 assists. The Bulls assisted on 34 of 41 field goals. And they completely suffocated the Hawks’ offense, holding them to 36.5 percent shooting.
Boozer dunked on the first possession and scored seven of the first 11 points as the Bulls spaced the floor more efficiently.
“I’m getting a little better every day,” Boozer said. “I’m just playing off my teammates.”
The Bulls were cruising when they received a scare. After Noah blocked a Jamal Crawford shot to start a fast break, Rose fed Deng, who landed hard on his back and wrist after getting fouled by Josh Smith. Deng stayed down for several seconds and winced as he came to the bench but returned to split his free throws.
The injury bug hit the Hawks in the second quarter when Jeff Teague also landed hard trying to defend a fast break. He sprained his right wrist but returned as the Hawks tried to get some late first-half momentum. Smith appeared to score on a fast break, three-point play that would’ve cut a 17-point deficit to seven. But official Ed Malloy overruled Joe Crawford and ruled Rose drew a charge.
It was that kind of night.