Rose leads Bulls to Game 3 victory over Hawks

For all of the Hawks' talk about not playing their best in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, they also had yet to see Derrick Rose at his MVP form.

Chicago's point guard had been mostly passive and inefficient, eschewing his electric drives to the basket in favor of jump shots. Rose's shaky decision-making had led to turnovers and forced shots.

There was no sign of any of that in Game 3 on Friday night, when Rose ran around and shot over the Hawks while scoring a playoff career-high 44 points to lift the Bulls to a 99-82 victory at Philips Arena.

The Bulls took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They regained home-court advantage after the Hawks took it with a victory at Chicago in Game 1.

“The loss at home really stuck with us,” Rose said. “We played with more intensity in Game 2 and carried it over to tonight. It's tough to beat us when we're playing good defense, and tonight we did it.”

The Bulls' defense was good, but Rose carried them.

He scored on twisting drives at difficult angles and sped past the Hawks in the open court. When the Hawks managed to stay in front of Rose, he pulled up for jump shots.

The Bulls were faster, sharper and tougher than the Hawks, who never led. Rose scored four points in Chicago's 6-0 run to start the game, including a layup after he beat the Hawks down the court for a layup following Joe Johnson's miss.

Hawks coach Larry Drew called a timeout after that play.

“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 1.”

The Hawks couldn't protect their home court, losing there for the first time in four postseason games this season. Rose put on a show as the numerous Bulls fans in the arena chanted “M-V-P” throughout the game.

All of the good feelings the Hawks created with their unexpected victory in Game 1 were replaced by frustration at their inability to stop Rose or score points. How can the Hawks recover from this kind of defeat?

“Don't hang our heads,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said. “We know we've got to come back Sunday and be ready to play. This series is not over. They just got back their home-court advantage.”

It wasn't just Rose who hurt the Hawks. Chicago's bench players, led by Taj Gibson (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Kyle Korver (11 points, 4-of-6 shooting), also were too much for the Hawks to handle.

Chicago's reserves scored 12 points during a 19-6 run that buried the Hawks in the second quarter. That burst gave the Bulls a 54-35 lead.

“They brought a lot of energy,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Those guys were terrific.”

The Hawks closed to within led 56-43 at halftime, but Rose had four points and assisted on Keith Bogans' 3-pointer during a 7-0 Bulls run to start the second half. The Hawks tried to rally a few times in the second half, but never slowed Rose.

The Hawks' final surge cut Chicago's 80-61 lead to 86-75 with 8:12 left. Rose answered with a jump shot over a close challenge from Jeff Teague, and consecutive 3-pointers to put the Hawks away.

That was one of several times Rose cooled off Hawks runs with baskets.

After the Hawks used an 8-0 run to cut Chicago's lead to 63-51, Rose scored the Bulls' next nine points. He scored on three drives to the basket and made three free throws, two of them after he stole the ball from Johnson and raced past Hawks defenders to draw a foul at the basket.

“When he's not dancing with the ball and attacking, he's impossible to stop,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Rose's strong finish book-ended his furious start. Rose and Teague took turns driving to the basket for scores early in the game.

Eventually Teague slowed and no one else could score for the Hawks, and Rose kept rolling.

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