Tuesday’s NBA playoff schedule was much shorter than the night before’s. After two overtime games Monday, and a three overtime epic to cap it off, Game 5 between the Bulls and Hawks gave fans a chance to catch their breath. But even though their series has been the least hyped in the current playoff bracket, it could have made a lot more headlines if the Hawks actually went back ahead of the East’s top seed. However, the Bulls found a way to pull away late and restore order.
So far, Chicago’s postseason schedule has not been that easy, surviving several scares against Indiana and a tough first four games against Atlanta. Therefore, although the Bulls went up by as much as 15 early on, the Hawks naturally climbed back into the game and took their first lead late in the third quarter.
Situations like this are where an MVP finds a way to take over. Yet Derrick Rose didn’t have to do it alone, as Taj Gibson came off the bench for 11 fourth-quarter points. Rose ended up with 33 overall points, to go along with Luol Deng’s 23, ultimately giving Chicago enough to cruise by the final minutes.
The Bulls’ 95-83 victory left the East’s top seed one win away from their first conference final in the post-Michael Jordan era. However, Chicago has to return to Atlanta to finish the job, and hope that the Hawks aren’t able to bounce back and cause more problems.
Since the Heat is on the brink of eliminating the Celtics, the Bulls probably can’t afford to get in a grueling seven-game series. Should Chicago survive something like that, it will give the team less time to rest against a Miami team that has been more impressive in the postseason.
Nevertheless, both the Bulls and Heat are on the brink of a long-awaited playoff showdown. These are the two teams that could dominate the East for a long time, now that the Celtics and Magic are tapering off. In addition, Chicago and Miami would be the two highest seeds left in the playoffs, since the Spurs and Lakers are already out in the West.
Although the West’s playoff path has not gone according to form, the Eastern Conference bracket technically has, as its two top seeds are one win away from facing off. Of course, Chicago has faced some bumps and bruises along the way, and will hope to avoid a few more in Atlanta.
But as the Bulls get ready for Game 6 Thursday, fans will be buzzing Wednesday over the Heat, Celtics, Grizzles and Thunder again. Miami can officially overthrow Boston with one more win, while the Thunder and Grizzlies try to break their grueling 2-2 tie in Oklahoma City.
NBA.com- “2011 Playoffs Schedule”
Yahoo Sports- “Chicago finds a spring in its step, and takes Game 5”