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Chicago goes to East final for first time since Jordan

/ 11:28 AM May 14, 2011

Atlanta — The Chicago Bulls are off to the NBA Eastern Conference finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era after beating the Atlanta Hawks 93-73 yesterday to complete a 4-2 series victory.

Carlos Boozer scored 23 points and Derrick Rose doled out 12 assists, pushing Chicago out to a big lead in the first half that carried the Bulls to a comfortable win.

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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.

More wins than the ballyhooed Miami Heat, whose Big Three are waiting in the next round, with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line. Game 1 is Sunday in Chicago.

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Rose scored 19 points in addition to setting up all those baskets, but this was a textbook performance by the players around him, each of them comfortable in a supporting role and willing to do the dirty work at the defensive end.

Chicago had assists on all but seven of its 31 baskets, and shot just 37 percent (27 of 74) and rarely got an open look.

That wasn’t the case for Boozer, who kept finding space and went 10-of-16 from the field, grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out five assists.

Luol Deng hit some big baskets early and finished with 13 points. Joakim Noah scored 11 and stifled the Hawks with three blocks. Omer Asik chipped in with two blocks of his own.

Keith Bogans made only one basket, but it was a big 3-pointer as the Bulls put it away in the third quarter.

Atlanta had hoped to extend the series to a Game 7, feeling the pressure would be squarely on the Bulls if it came down to a winner-take-all. But Chicago squashed those hopes from the opening tip. The Bulls never trailed, and the lead was 10 by the end of the first quarter.

The Hawks had been in that position before. They fell behind by 15 in Game 5, then fought back to lead early in the fourth quarter. Chicago dominated late in that game for a 13-point win, but the Bulls weren’t about to cut it that close again.

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With the loss, Atlanta extended an infamous playoff mark: The Hawks have never advanced past the second round since moving from St. Louis in 1968.

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TAGS: basketball, National Basketball Association (North American Professional)
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