Saddled with foul trouble and a sprained left ankle, Derrick Rose shook it all off and delivered another memorable performance.
CHICAGO (AP) — Saddled with foul trouble and a sprained left ankle, Derrick Rose shook it all off and delivered another memorable performance.
By the time he was done, the Bulls were on their way. How far they go remains to be seen.
Rose scored 25 points, Luol Deng added 24 and Chicago finally dominated like a championship contender, knocking off the Indiana Pacers 116-89 in Game 5 to finish the first-round playoff series Tuesday night.
The top-seeded Bulls can breathe a little easier after a runaway win that came on the heels of four dramatic games, and turn their attention to the Eastern Conference semifinals and a matchup with Atlanta or Orlando.
And their superstar point guard gets a few extra days to rest, too.
For all the angst over his ankle and the havoc the Pacers were causing with their traps, Rose still managed the type of all-around game that powered Chicago to the NBA’s best record this season. He drove, hit jumpers, found the open man and was just a nightmare for the Pacers, particularly during the decisive third-quarter run, helping the Bulls clear their first hurdle in what they think could be a long playoff run.
"Don’t jinx it," said Rose, the South Side product. "It’s great, man, especially being on a team with these guys. My teammates, they’re great. It feels good to be back on a winning team. I haven’t been on a winning team since college. The front office did a great job of picking the right guys. Our mindset was great from the beginning."
The Bulls were aiming higher after back-to-back 41-win seasons and first-round playoff exits. They hired coach Tom Thibodeau to replace the fired Vinny Del Negro, overhauled the roster and wound up with 62 wins.
They got all they could handle, though, from the Pacers right to the end — or to the third quarter on Tuesday, anyway.
Rose had his left ankle taped after spraining it in Game 4 and acknowledged he was a bit apprehensive at first, but he wound up hitting 8 of 17 shots. He dominated in the early going and came up big in the third after the Pacers pulled within four. He scored 10 points over the final six minutes after returning with four fouls, and Chicago ended the quarter on a 23-8 run to blow the game open.
The Bulls hit 14 of 31 3-pointers, including five by Keith Bogans (15 points) and three each by Deng and Rose. Deng also had seven assists and six rebounds.
Joakim Noah added 14 points and eight rebounds, and the Bulls won a playoff series for the first time since they swept Miami in the first round in 2007. It was clearly their most impressive performance of the postseason even though Carlos Boozer scored just two points.
"All year long, we’ve focused in on going step by step," Thibodeau said. "I think once you start skipping steps and looking at all the other stuff, that’s when you get lost. So we knew we were capable of playing better, although when you look at the series, to be up 3-1, you’ve got to do a lot of things well, too."
Danny Granger scored 20 for the Pacers and had some strong words afterward for Noah. He accused Noah of throwing elbows that ultimately led to a technical foul for A.J. Price after an altercation with Tyler Hansbrough, and an ejection by Josh McRoberts later in the game.
"He’s a dirty player, honestly," Granger said.
"Everyone knows in the league Jo is not dirty," Deng countered.
Hansbrough had 14 points and 11 rebounds, but the Pacers trailed the entire way and committed 21 turnovers.
Things took a nasty turn in the closing seconds of the third when McRoberts threw an elbow at Noah and got ejected.
The two were starting to run the other way after a missed 3-pointer by Rose. McRoberts said he was elbowed in the throat by Noah and was retaliating when swung his right elbow. That blow missed, but McRoberts got called for the flagrant foul 2 and got tossed.
"I was trying to shove back to defend myself," he said.
Noah, who hit both free throws with 2.5 seconds left to make it 84-65, said: "I wasn’t dirtier than anyone else. It was a battle down there. I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. I was just trying to win."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)