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Bulls’ bench sparks rally, gets job done to put Hawks on brink

Keith Bogans congratulates Derrick Rose after Rose is fouled while sinking basket fourth quarter Bulls’ victory over Hawks Game 5

Keith Bogans congratulates Derrick Rose after Rose is fouled while sinking a basket in the fourth quarter of the Bulls’ victory over the Hawks in Game 5 at the United Center. Rose had a game-high 33 points. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 12, 2011 12:38AM



It’s a game of survive and advance now.

The Bulls did the first part, surviving the Atlanta Hawks 95-83 at a nervous United Center on Tuesday night behind a big fourth quarter from Derrick Rose and Bench Mob stalwarts Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer.

Down 70-69 early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls dug in their heels defensively and grinded away.

‘‘It’s the playoffs,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘You’re going to be in tight quarters. You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We hung tough. We stayed together. We got some timely baskets, and we got some stops. I thought the energy of that group was really good.’’

And now, owning a hard-fought 3-2 advantage, they’ll have two chances to finish off this second-round series and advance to the Eastern Conference finals against Miami or Boston.

‘‘It’s definitely fun playing against a good team,’’ Rose said, although many Bulls fans might disagree. ‘‘It’s going to make everybody better. Coach always says we’re going to have to walk through fire together.’’

The Bulls know they will need to shore up some things to clip the Hawks’ wings for good.

‘‘We can’t get tired or bored,’’ Rose said. ‘‘We know that. Going down there, they’re going to give us their all. This is going to be a war
going into Atlanta.’’

But there are no bad victories at this point in the season.

‘‘We feel like we played good tonight,’’ forward Carlos Boozer said. ‘‘We finished the game much better than we did in Game 4.’’

It was a night where the Bulls had to grind out a victory against the skilled and poised Hawks.

Give the Hawks credit for bringing their A game. But give the Bulls the W for willing themselves to victory.

As always, Rose was a rock, with 33 points, nine assists and MVP leadership.

As usual, Luol Deng scored 23 points that will fly under the
radar, just like his defense and four
rebounds and three assists.

Another Invisi-Bull, defensive
anchor Keith Bogans, also delivered 11 clutch points.

And Gibson is growing up right before our eyes. The young forward scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, when the Bulls needed them most.

‘‘Taj is a good player; he really doesn’t know how good he is,’’ said Rose, not surprised that the Bench Mob delivered. ‘‘This is a team thing, where when guys come in they have to play as good as the starters. And tonight, they showed it.’’

Watching from the bench, Boozer could not have been happier for his understudy.

‘‘Taj was awesome,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘I was so proud of him. He played great defense. He hit big shot after big shot. He played amazing.’’

After a high-octane start led by
defensive stalwarts Deng and
Bogans, the Bulls opened a 32-17 lead and looked like they might be poised to put the hammer down.

But the Hawks are a skilled crew, and they wouldn’t go away. For all the pregame hype about playing hard, this settled into a tough game in which passions were channeled into executing.

With 4:04 left in the third quarter, tempers flared briefly between Josh Smith and Boozer, who traded shoves after skirmishing under the boards.

‘‘We just have fun,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘Two competitors going at it, trying to help our teams win.’’

The Hawks kept chipping away,
finally taking their first lead, 64-63, with 1:46 left in the third.

The game seesawed a bit, but Gibson, on a three-point play set up by Rose, gave the Bulls some breathing room at 76-70 with 9:05 left.

After Brewer scored on a goaltending call and a three-point play by a hurtling Rose gave the Bulls an 85-76 lead, a crowd that had been holding its breath was able to exhale.

With a thunderous roar.



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