Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – The Chicago Bulls are heading back to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1998. This time around, it’s Derrick Rose leading the charge instead of Michael Jordan.
Rose, the reigning NBA MVP, scored 19 points and dished out 12 assists, as the Bulls handled the Atlanta Hawks, 93-73, in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.
Selected to the All-NBA First Team earlier on Thursday, Rose helped the Bulls improve to 13-1 all-time in playoff series in which they have led 3-2 after five games.
The last time Chicago found itself in the conference finals, Jordan was leading the Bulls to their third straight NBA title and sixth overall.
Rose and the top-seeded Bulls will face the Miami Heat in the conference finals. The Heat took down the Celtics in five games to advance. Game 1 is set for Sunday in Chicago.
"We’re happy to get to the conference finals," Rose said. "But we’re not planning to stop right there."
Carlos Boozer finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who tipped the series in their favor with a 95-83 victory in Game 5 on Tuesday.
Joe Johnson and Josh Smith had 19 and 18 points, respectively, for the fifth- seeded Hawks, who shot just 36.5 percent from the field.
The Bulls took an early lead and never looked back. A 7-0 Chicago flurry late in the first quarter gave the visitors a 27-15 lead. The margin was 10, 27-17, heading to second.
Holding a 35-25 edge midway through the second, the Bulls ripped off seven straight points. Boozer’s jumper, Joakim Noah’s three-point play and Luol Deng’s jumper made it 42-25 with under 4 1/2 minutes to go.
It seemed like Chicago was ready to run away with it, but Atlanta made things interesting at the end of the half. Smith was fouled on a one-handed alley-oop jam and made his free throw. Zaza Pachulia then added a free throw before the break to get the Hawks within 45-35.
Ahead 56-45 midway through the third, Chicago essentially put the game away with a 7-1 spurt. A Keith Bogans trey and Boozer’s jumper gave the Bulls a 63-46 margin with 4 1/2 minutes left.
Omer Asik’s three-point play and Boozer’s two free throws later in the period made it a 70-51 game.
Chicago took a 70-53 lead into the fourth and cruised to victory in the final frame.
"They just got on a roll," Johnson said. "Boozer probably had his best game that he has played all series. You have to give them credit."
Hawks guard Jeff Teague left the game briefly in the second quarter after falling hard to the floor. He came back with a sprained right wrist and ended with four points…Deng and Noah had 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Bulls, who shot 53.2 percent from the field…Jordan won six NBA titles with the Bulls (1991-1993, 1996-1998)