The Chicago Bulls put together their most complete game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs on Tuesday and beat the Indiana Pacers 116-89 to advance to the second round, where they will face the winner of the Hawks/Magic series. The Pacers hung tough in each of the first four games of this series, but the Bulls did a good job of never opening the door in Game 5. They led from start to finish, and never provided an opportunity for the Pacers to feel very good about their chances.
Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times Derrick Rose was pretty excited about making it to the second round for the first time in his career.
‘‘I’m speechless right now,’’ Rose, who played only 30 minutes because of foul trouble, not his ankle, said after winning an NBA playoff series for the first time. ‘‘I really can’t believe it. It’s a great accomplishment. We’re going to try to keep this thing going.’’
Rose only played 30 minutes because of foul trouble, but still managed to register 25 points and six assists. Even though he wasn't his typical dominating self, Kyle Korver says that Rose played well enough to lift his teammates to a win.
‘‘He’s tough,’’ guard Kyle Korver said. ‘‘He didn’t just play, he played really well. He hit those shtos in the second half. He’s the MVP for a reason, right? He’s young, but he showed a lot of character.’’
The other key storyline to this game was the emergence of Joakim Noah, who had by far his best game of the series. He scored 14 points and pulled in eight rebounds, but his biggest contribution might have been his four blocks. But our Bulls blog, Blog-a-Bull warns us that while one member of the frontcourt has started showing up, the other is starting to disappear entirely.
If the lessons from this series include the reemergence of Joakim Noah, it also has to give notice to the precipitous fall of Carlos Boozer. Booz finished a fairly miserable series with maybe his worst game yet: 2 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 fouls in under 16 minutes, and having to watch from the bench while his teammates took control of the game without him.
Despite their struggles earlier in the series, the Bulls still dispatched the eighth seeded Pacers in just five games. That's not so bad for the top seed in the conference. But they will likely have to play better in the next series against what will surely be a stronger opponent. The Magic/Hawks series is headed for Game 6 on Thursday.