Coming into game five of a highly competitive series with their star player gutting it out on a bum ankle, the Chicago Bulls had all the earmarks of a team that could drop a game. But with the will and determination they showed all season long, Chicago proved why they are the overall number 1 seed with a convincing 116-89 win over the Indiana Pacers. With the win, the Bulls punched their ticket to round 2 and the next step in their championship goal.
"All year long, we've focused in on going step by step," Bulls coach Tom 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."
Chicago was led by their All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who put up 25 points despite early foul trouble that limited his minutes as well as a sprained ankle. The series win was Rose's first and left the young star happier than words could express.
"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."
The ankle that Rose sprained in game 4 was taped up and didn't seem to slow him down any. When he was on the court, he had his way with the pacers, stopping any runs they were having and keeping the Bulls in the drivers seat. His biggest contribution came in the third where he put up 12 points to keep a surging Indiana in check.
‘‘He’s tough,’’ guard Kyle Korver said of Rose. ‘‘He didn’t just play, he played really well. He hit those shots in the second half. He’s the MVP for a reason, right? He’s young, but he showed a lot of character.’’
The win for Chicago did come with a little controversy as Indiana player Danny Granger called out the Bulls Joakim Noah for playing dirty throughout the game. He accused the feisty center of cheap-shotting Pacers players and was prepared to catch him after the game until Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau intervened.
"He pulled a cowardly move," Granger said. "He cheap-shotted a couple of my teammates, and one gets thrown out …The refs never catch what he did … it's cowardly. And I'm going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don't think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand."
Accusations aside, the Bulls have a few extra days to rest up before getting back on the court as they await their next round match-up with Atlanta, Orlando, or Philadelphia.
Photo Courtesy of: ASSOCIATED PRESS