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Thursday, August 18

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Bulls Sat May 07 2011

Rose's Career-High 44 Carries Bulls to Easy Win

If last night was the first Bulls game you've seen this year, you might be surprised to hear they struggled a bit on the road this year. You also might be surprised to hear Carlos Boozer is their highest-paid player. But if you're surprised at all at the performance Derrick Rose turned in, you clearly haven't been paying attention at all.

Thumbnail image for bulls hawks series logo.PNGThe league MVP went off against a porous Atlanta Hawks' defense, scoring a career-high 44 points to lead Chicago to a 99-82 win and a 2-1 lead in this second-round series.

Rose's scoring coupled with a suffocating defense meant the Hawks were doomed from the start. The Bulls scored the game's first six points and pulled ahead by 13 at halftime before cruising through the second half.

Seemingly shaking off the ankle injury he suffered at the end of Monday's Game 1 loss, Rose continued to improve his play this series by really nailing down his jumper. It was hardly necessary, given the wide open lanes in Atlanta's defense, but he could clearly step back and hit his shots as well, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Rose also dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, grabbed a steal and blocked a shot--all while committing only two turnovers and one personal foul.

It was as complete a game as one could have, really, and if you're still not convinced he's the Most Valuable Player, maybe this stat will help: Rose had 44 of his team's 99 points. He was momentum itself, forcing the Hawks to call a timeout just 49 seconds into the game with a strong drive to the hoop and again in the fourth quarter after hitting two 3-pointers a minute apart.

On a night like this, it's tough to say whether he played so well because Atlanta's defense was so bad, or whether he just made Atlanta's defense look that bad. All I know for sure is that this was a touchstone in the continued growth of Derrick Rose.

As far as the rest of the team, well, Joakim Noah flew under the radar despite grabbing 15 rebounds. He got eight on the offensive boards (though struggled to put them back), but had five blocks in a powerful performance in the paint. Luol Deng played somewhat poorly on the offensive end, right after I trumpeted his consistent contributions, hitting only 3 of 10 shots on the night. Carlos Boozer was the Carlos Boozer we've come to know and love -- six points, six largely inconsequential rebounds -- though it's worth noting that coach Tom Thibodeau has cut back on his minutes, using him for 21 minutes and Taj Gibson for 26 minutes, including some time with the first unit.

Clearly, though, Rose didn't need too much help offensively. His teammates' real contributions came on the defensive end, again letting Jeff Teague take on the scoring burden with 21 points and holding Josh Smith and Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford in check. The Hawks didn't shoot too poorly, connecting on 47 percent (better than Chicago's 46 percent), but the difference lay in the Bulls' ability to hit nine more 3-pointers than Atlanta and a nine-rebound advantage.

The Bulls' bench also earned their pay, especially when you see how Atlanta looks relying solely on their starting five plus Crawford. With the Chicago starters resting and a six-point lead in the second quarter, their bench ended up more than doubling the lead, getting 13 points up on the Hawks before the starters began to return.

This was a return of the Atlanta Hawks NBA fans have come to know and love tolerate in recent years: poor hustle and an apparent apathy. For Bulls fans, this wasn't quite a return to form for Rose (as he obviously couldn't, and didn't, play quite this fantastic in every game all year), but it might just feel that way with how big his legend has become.

It's still only a 2-1 series lead, and the Bulls are capable of losing any game they don't work hard for, so there's no sense in saying that this was lights out for the Hawks. But one more performance like this Sunday night probably will be.

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