The Chicago Bulls are heading to their first Eastern Conference Finals since the Jordan era after knocking the Atlanta Hawks out of the Playoffs Thursday night as the Bulls won game six of their second round series 93-73. Chicago took charge of the proceedings in the opening period and the Hawks never were able to recover as their hopes of advancing to the next round came to an end. It was by far the strongest performance by the Bulls throughout the Post Season as they had struggled against Atlanta and the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the Playoffs.
The team from the “Windy City” shot a sizzling 53.2% (41-77) from the floor led by Carlos Boozer who racked up a double-double with a game high 23 points. Derrick Rose also recorded a double-double with 19 points in the win. Atlanta would have a tough night offensively shooting an anemic 36.5% (27-74) and just 1-11 from outside the arc. The Hawks would score in the teens in three of the four quarters. Joe Johnson had 19 points while Josh Smith added another 18 as they were the only two players on their squad to score in double figures for the evening.
Chicago set the tone for the contest during the first and took the crowd at Phillips Arena out of the game. Luol Deng knocked down a shot with 59 seconds left in the period putting his team on top 27-17 at the end of the quarter. The Bulls offense would stall out during the second but Atlanta could not take advantage of the opportunity. The two teams would head to their locker rooms as the game reached the half with the Hawks still trailing by ten points with the score 45-35.
Any hopes that the home team may have had of coming back in this game and extending the series to a seventh game would be extinguished in the third. Chicago would score early and often in the period and put the game away by the end of the quarter holding a 70-53 lead. The Hawks never came close to being a threat in the final 12 minutes of play and the Bulls went onto win the game and the series.
Boozer scored 23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal in the victory. Rose had 19 points, 12 assists and 4 rebounds while Luol Deng put up 13 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Joakim Noah added 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and an assist while Taj Gibson came off the bench with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 19 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds while Josh Smith scored 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 1 assist. The Bulls will play host to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals opening game at the United Center Sunday night.