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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bulls pummel Pacers in Game 5, reach East semis

AP

CHICAGO — Sitting on the bench with four fouls and his team struggling, Derrick Rose pleaded with his coach to put him back in the game.

News photo
To the hole: The Magic's Jason Richardson attempts a layup as the Hawks' Jason Collins (right) and Kirk Hinrich defend in the first half of Game 5 of their first-round series on Tuesday. Orlando beat Atlanta 101-76. AP

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau took the risk and his All-Star guard responded, lifting the Bulls to the second round.

Rose scored 25 points, Luol Deng added 24 and Chicago finally played like a top seed, knocking off the Indiana Pacers 116-89 in Game 5 to wrap up their first-round playoff series Tuesday night.

The top-seeded Bulls can breathe a little easier after getting a dominant performance by their MVP candidate and an emphatic win that came on the heels of four dramatic games.

They can also turn their attention to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they'll meet Atlanta or Orlando.

"Speechless right now," Rose said. "I really can't believe it. It's a great accomplishment. I'm happy for my teammates, happy for my coaching staff. They did a really great job."

Rose seemed just fine after spraining his left ankle in Game 4. He had it taped and acknowledged he was a bit apprehensive at first, but he wound up hitting 8 of 17 shots. He dominated in the early going and came up big in the third after Indiana pulled within four. He scored 10 points over the final six minutes after returning with four fouls, and Chicago ended the quarter on a 23-8 run to blow the game open.

The Bulls hit 14 of 31 3-pointers, including five by Keith Bogans (15 points) and three each by Deng and Rose. Deng also had seven assists and six rebounds.

Joakim Noah added 14 points and eight rebounds, and Chicago won a playoff series for the first time since it swept Miami in the first round in 2007 and only the second time since the Michael Jordan-led championship era. It was clearly the Bulls' most impressive performance of the postseason even though Carlos Boozer scored just two points.

"All year long, we've focused in on going step by step," Thibodeau said. "I think once you start skipping steps and looking at all the other stuff, that's when you get lost. So we knew we were capable of playing better, although when you look at the series, to be up 3-1, you've got to do a lot of things well, too."

Danny Granger scored 20 for the Pacers and had some strong words afterward for Noah. He accused Noah of throwing elbows that ultimately led to a technical foul for A.J. Price after an altercation with Tyler Hansbrough and an ejection by Josh McRoberts later in the game.

Lakers 106, Hornets 90

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant scored 19 points and threw down two stirring dunks on a sprained left ankle, and the Lakers pushed New Orleans to the brink of first-round playoff elimination with a victory in Game 5, taking a 3-2 series lead.

Andrew Bynum had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 16 points as the two-time defending NBA champions roared back from a slow start in a pivotal game for their three-peat hopes with another dramatic playoff performance by Bryant, who injured his ankle in Game 4.

Trevor Ariza scored 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 21, and Chris Paul had 20 points and 12 assists for the seventh-seeded Hornets, who have lost three of four since their stunning Game 1 victory. Ariza hit five 3-pointers, but managed just six points in the second half as the Lakers took control of the game and perhaps the series.

Game 6 is Thursday in New Orleans.

Bryant left New Orleans on crutches two days earlier, but he refused an MRI exam extensive treatment when he got home, with coach Phil Jackson reluctantly agreeing. Postseason injuries are nothing new for the two-time NBA Finals MVP, who has persevered through a slew of them during 67 playoff games in the previous three years.

After a slow start, Bryant erased worries about his fitness with a dunk that recalled the days when a younger Kobe wore a No. 8 jersey. Late in the second quarter, he drove the lane with a left-hand dribble, went up with two hands and threw down a right-handed slam over Emeka Okafor, electrifying his Staples Center fans.

Magic 101, Hawks 76

In Orlando, Jason Richardson scored 17 points and J.J. Redick added 14 to help the Magic stay alive in the playoffs with a victory over Atlanta.

The win kept alive Orlando's hopes of becoming the ninth team in NBA history to win a playoff series after trailing 3-1. If the Magic can win Game 6 Thursday in Atlanta, they would host the decisive Game 7 on Saturday.

Orlando center Dwight Howard battled foul trouble throughout the night and had just one field goal, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds. The Magic didn't need his offense, though, as the team broke out of a series-long shooting slump with 11 3-pointers.

Josh Smith scored 22 points to lead Atlanta.



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