By ANDREW SELIGMAN (AP Sports Writer)
CHICAGO (AP) — Derrick Rose attacked the rim like a fish going for the bait, driving at will and doing all he could to lead his team to a crucial victory.
Rose scored a total of 33 points, and the Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-83 in Game 5 on May 10 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference’s best-of-seven semifinals.
Taj Gibson pitched in, too. So did Luol Deng, and now the Chicago Bulls are one win away from the finals. Deng added 23 points and Chicago let out a big sigh of relief.
The last time they got there two guys named Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were wreaking havoc on the rest of the NBA. All they have to do now is take out the Hawks in Game 6 on Thursday, May 12.
A win Thursday in Atlanta would put the Bulls in the conference finals for the first time since Jordan and Pippen wrapped up their second championship three-peat in 1998. They are again in striking range after dominating Atlanta in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, 26-15, with Rose and Gibson both scoring 11 points during the period.
Rose showed why he is the league’s youngest MVP, hitting 11-of-24 shots and finishing with nine assists. It was a big improvement over Game 4 when he needed 32 shots to score 34 points, and he was particularly effective down the stretch, attacking the rim.
“He made unbelievable plays. He exploded off the pick and roll,” Atlanta’s Josh Smith said.
Jeff Teague was big again for the Hawks in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich, scoring 21 for the third time in this series, but Atlanta came up short in the end.
Smith contributed 16 points. Joe Johnson scored 15, Zaza Pachulia finished with 13 points and Al Horford added 12 points and 10 rebounds. But Jamal Crawford scored just two points on 1-of-9 shooting.
“We were playing for everything,” Horford said. “We have to regroup again and get ready for Thursday.”
The Bulls led by 15 points in the first quarter but were trailing 70-69 early in the fourth before they went on a 9-0 run.
Rose started it when he drove to his left for a layup, fed Gibson a no-look pass in transition for a three-point play and added a layup that made it 78-70.
Then, midway through the fourth, he drove for a three-point play that made it 85-76, and after Atlanta pulled within six, Chicago scored eight straight to make it 93-79, with six points coming from Gibson.
Deitra P. Johnson contributed to this report.