ATLANTA (AP)—Finally, the real Chicago Bulls showed up in the playoffs.
Naturally, Derrick Rose led the way.
Looking every bit like an MVP, Rose sliced up Atlanta for a career-high 44 points as the Bulls seized control of the Eastern Conference semifinals with their best performance of the postseason, romping to a 99-82 victory over the Hawks in Game 3 Friday night.
The Bulls lead the series 2-1, putting Atlanta in must-win position heading into Game 4 Sunday night.
Rose was dominant from the opening tip, slashing into the lane for a basket that prompted Atlanta to call a timeout before game was a minute old. He finished off the Hawks midway through the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers, hopping down the court, serenaded by chants of "MVP! MVP" from a hefty contingent of Bulls fans.
The Hawks' fans began heading for home. Jeff Teague was about the only highlight for Atlanta, scoring 21 points. That wasn't nearly enough against the D-Rose onslaught. He made 16 of 27 shots from the field, including four 3s. He dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, came up with a steal — heck, he even blocked a shot.
After struggling to put away Indiana in the opening round and losing at home in the opener of this series, the Bulls looked every bit like the team that won 62 games during the regular season. While everyone will point to Rose's performance, the Chicago bench played a key role in a decisive second-quarter spurt. And everyone chipped in on the boards, leading the Bulls to a 47-34 edge that included 18 offensive rebounds.
The Hawks hadn't played a home playoff game of this magnitude since 1997, when this same scenario presented itself after Atlanta split the first two games in Chicago against the Michael Jordan-led Bulls in the East semifinals.
That one didn't work out too well for the Hawks, who promptly lost both games at the old Omni and were finished off in Game 5 back in ChiTown. Judging by the way things went Friday night, this series could be headed toward a similar result.