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Bulls down Hawks to reach Eastern Finals

May 13, 2011 12:02 IST

The Chicago Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998 with a series-clinching 93-73 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.

Displaying the kind of offensive and defensive balance that earned them the best regular-season record, the Bulls brushed past the Hawks to close out the best-of-seven series 4-2.

Chicago will now face the in-form Miami Heat for a place in the NBA Finals.

"It's going to be a battle. They're a great team, they're playing together great as a team and we are too," Chicago's Derrick Rose told reporters of the upcoming series.

"We're at a place where we've never been. We're happy, the fans are happy and we're just trying to keep it going."

Rose, the League's most valuable player (MVP), has helped the Chicago franchise reach a level not seen since the Michael Jordan-led glory days of the 1990s.

On Thursday, he delivered one of his most efficient performances of the postseason, finishing with 19 points and 12 assists while taking just 14 shots -- nearly half of his series average.

Rose's team mates carried more of the load with Carlos Boozer tallying 23 points and 10 rebounds.

"I'm just getting a little better every day and playing off the MVP," said Boozer, who has been hampered by a toe injury during the playoffs. "We just got done with a great challenge against a great team."

The Hawks were blitzed from the start, trailing by 10 after the first and second quarters, before falling behind by 17 after three.

Joe Johnson scored a team-high 19 points and Josh Smith added 18 for the Hawks.

Having pulled off an upset win over the Orlando Magic in the first round series, Atlanta stole the opener against Chicago to position itself nicely.

But the Hawks lost the next two games of the series then were pushed to the brink with a Game Five loss on Tuesday.

Atlanta was held to just 36 percent shooting in the finale.

The Bulls, meanwhile, thrived making 53 percent of their field goals and tallying a playoff-high 34 assists on the night.

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