CHICAGO — Derrick Rose scored 33 points, Luol Deng added 23 and the Chicago Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-83 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead.
Taj Gibson had 11 points – all in the fourth quarter. Rose also scored 11 in the fourth, and the Bulls pounded the Hawks 26-15 in the quarter.
"Taj, man, he just doesn't know how good he is right now," Rose said. "Still young, still trying to learn the game, but he came in and did what he's supposed to do."
Game 6 is Thursday in Atlanta, and Chicago is one win from its first conference finals appearance since 1998, when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen wrapped up their second championship three-peat.
"Play defense," Rose said of what the Bulls need to do in Game 6. "That's our whole game plan is playing defense. Our offense will be there, but if we continue to help each other, rebound the ball and run, I think that we should be in good shape."
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.
That was enough to offset another strong performance by Atlanta's Jeff Teague. Filling in for the injured Kirk Hinrich, he delivered his third 21-point game of the series.
Josh Smith scored 16 points for the Hawks, while Joe Johnson had 15 and Al Horford added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
It hasn't been an easy postseason for the Bulls after they stormed to a league-leading 62 wins. They got pushed by Indiana in the first round and are getting all they can handle from the Hawks, yet they are in a good position thanks to a strong fourth quarter.
"Just playing together," Rose said of Chicago's fourth-quarter defense. "Making sure there's help-side defense. Making everything tough on them, and some of the people that came off the bench, they played tremendous for us."
The Bulls led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter but were trailing 70-69 early in the fourth when 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. Fans were screeching "MVP! MVP!" as he buried the free throw, and after Atlanta pulled within six, Chicago reeled eight straight to make it 93-79, with six points coming from Gibson.
"Just going hard," Rose said of how he went at Atlanta's defense. "My teammates, they set good screens. I was just trying to attack the basket, get fouled, shoot floaters, and tonight they were going in."
The late run aside, it wasn't an easy night for the Bulls.
Considering Chicago got 15 points each from Rose and Deng in the first half and led by as many as 15, the Hawks were probably glad to be trailing 48-42 at halftime. They kept coming at the Bulls in the third quarter.
Things got particularly tense after a two-handed dunk by Smith cut Chicago's lead to 61-60 with just over 4 minutes left in the period. He hung on the rim and Boozer gave him a forearm to the face, leading to a retaliatory shove from Smith and technical fouls for both players.
Smith gave the Hawks their first lead of the game when he nailed a jumper that made it 64-63 with 1:45 remaining. Deng answered with a jumper and hit two free throws after Horford scored to make it 67-66.
Pachulia then hit an 11-footer with 9.8 seconds left before Gibson drove upcourt and fed Ronnie Brewer to give Chicago a 69-68 lead going into the fourth.
The Bulls were in sync in the early going. They moved the ball and it paid off in drives or open jumpers, with Chicago hitting 13 of 23 shots to build a 32-21 lead.
Deng scored 11 in the quarter, including Chicago's first seven points.
Rose had nine points with four assists, and Keith Bogans provided a spark, scoring eight in the period. He hit two 3-pointers, drove for a reverse layup and took an offensive foul against Jamal Crawford in just over a 2-minute span late in the first quarter as Chicago increased its lead to 32-17.
Notes: The Hawks went big again, with coach Larry Drew sticking with the lineup that helped them win Game 4. Jason Collins starting at center, Horford at power forward and Smith at small forward, with Marvin Williams in a reserve role. ... Bogans, who sprained his right ankle in Game 4, was limited to shooting free throws at the morning shootaround for precautionary reasons. ... Coach Tom Thibodeau was encouraged by what he saw from Boozer in Game 4 and thought the 18-point performance could be a turning point. "I think he's getting healthier, and we need his low-post scoring and his rebounding," Thibodeau said. "As he's feeling better, I think he'll play better."