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Bulls rout Cavs, set for 76ers in first round Saturday

Joakim Noah (13 points 12 rebounds) contests shot by Tristan ThompsBulls’ 107-75 victory against Cavaliers Thursday United Center. | Tom

Joakim Noah (13 points, 12 rebounds) contests a shot by Tristan Thompson in Bulls’ 107-75 victory against the Cavaliers on Thursday at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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NBA PLAYOFFS — First Round

BULLS vs. 76ers

Best of seven. Games 5-7, if nec.

G1: at Bulls, noon Sat. (TNT)

G2: at Bulls, 7 p.m. Tues. (TNT)

G3: at 76ers, 8 Thur. (ESPN)

G4: at 76ers, noon May 6 (Ch. 7)

G5: at Bulls, TBD, May 8

G6: at 76ers, TBD, May 10

G7: at Bulls, TBD, May 12 (TNT)

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Updated: May 28, 2012 9:11AM

A regular season that began with a last-second shot to beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day, that included 98 games lost to injuries and had memorable victories against the Miami Heat without Derrick Rose and with the star point guard playing his worst game as a pro, ended with a 107-75 win over the Cavaliers on Thursday night at the United Center.

Appropriately enough, Rose was on the bench when the Bulls locked up home-court advantage through the NBA Finals despite their ­reigning MVP missing 26 games with five different injuries.

“We have great chemistry,” said John Lucas III, who scored a career-high 25 points. “Mentally, we’re right there. Now it’s time. Now the second season starts.”

Meanwhile, Evan Turner got his wish when his 76ers rested three of their best players in a loss to the Detroit Pistons. The Chicago native and Sixers second-year swingman said earlier this week that finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference and therefore playing the top-seeded Bulls would mean they were “dodging the tougher team” in the second-seeded Heat.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven first-round playoff series between the teams will be Saturday at noon at the United Center.

“I love it,” veteran Rip Hamilton said of Turner providing extra motivation. “You just have to give them what they ask for.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau announced before the game that he would rest Rose, Luol Deng and Kyle Korver because the Bulls were playing their second game in as many nights and their first playoff game could start as early as noon Saturday.

Rose was more explosive than he has been in weeks during Wednesday night’s victory against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, which also factored into Thibodeau’s decision, as did the cohesion his team displayed while leading from start to finish.

“Last year, with Derrick, we had to rely heavily on his scoring to have a good chance to win,” Thibodeau said. “This year, Derrick does not have to score like that. We have a number of guys who can score. It’s a more balanced attack. Having six guys who can score in double figures helps you a lot”

Joakim Noah had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who grabbed 60 rebounds to the Cavaliers’ 38 and dished out 29 assists to eight for their opponents. Rookie Jimmy Butler finished with a career-high 12 points.

The Bulls’ 50th victory also extended their home-court advantage through the NBA Finals. Thibodeau’s team was tied with the Spurs for the best record in the league with one game remaining and owned the tiebreaker thanks to a victory in San Antonio on Feb. 29.

The regular season has included several milestones, including the Bulls allowing a league-best 88.2 points per game, topping the franchise record of 89.6 points set in 1997-98.

“Our team responded to every challenge they had, but we still have a long way to go,” Thibodeau said. “This is what we play for.”

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