CHICAGO, (Reuters) – Chicago’s Derrick Rose was in MVP mode on Friday scoring a career-high 44 points to lead the Bulls to a 99-82 win over the Atlanta Hawks as Dallas beat the Los Angeles Lakers to leave the two-time defending champions on the ropes.
The Mavericks rallied from a seven point deficit in the final five minutes to defeat the Lakers 98-92 and grab a commanding 3-0 lead in their Western Conference semi-final in front of a record crowd at the American Airlines Center.
In Chicago, the Bulls led from start to finish and had the better of the Hawks in virtually every department to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final series. Chicago got off to a quick start and nursed a six-point advantage through the first quarter and their bench pushed the lead to 13 before the starters returned.
“Derrick was in attack mode, obviously. He was attacking from the start. When he’s attacking, and not dancing with the ball, he’s impossible to stop,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
“He caught it on the run and kept going, he wasn’t playing around or letting them catch up.”
Atlanta coach Larry Drew agreed and saw signs that Rose was going to pose a problem right from the very start as he called a timeout 45 seconds into the game after Rose’s first basket of the game.
“I saw an energy level that, right away, I knew we were in trouble,” Drew said. “When you play against an explosive guard like Derrick Rose, you have to make a commitment to getting back and making sure you try to keep him out of the paint.
“When I called the timeout, I knew right then and there that my team had not made that commitment like we made in Game one.”
The Hawks mustered one last push in the fourth quarter trimming the lead to 11 points, but Rose responded with eight consecutive points including two three-pointers.
Kyle Korver followed up with a three-pointer of his own to push the lead to a game-high 22 points with just under five minutes left allowing the Bulls to coast to victory.
Chicago connected on 10 of 20 three point attempts while the Hawks were successful on only one of six.
In Dallas, the Lakers were left wondering how they let a seven point lead evaporate so late in the game as 21,156 fans cheered wildly.
Jason Terry’s three pointer with two minutes remaining proved key as the Mavericks claimed the lead at 91-89. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 32 points and sub Terry added 23 points.
Andrew Bynum played a strong game leading the Lakers with 21 points but Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol struggled scoring 17 and 12 points respectively.