CHICAGO (AP) NBA Commissioner David Stern was on hand for Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls-Atlanta Hawks series to present Derrick Rose his MVP trophy in front of the Chicago crowd.
Newly crowned MVP Rose scored 25 points, Joakim Noah added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks 86-73 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night to tie the series.
The top-seeded Bulls shook off a dismal performance in the opener and looked more like the team with a league-leading 62 wins, building a 14-point lead and ending the game on a 9-2 run after the Hawks got within six.
Now, the series shifts to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4 Friday and Sunday, with Chicago at least in better shape after a 103-95 loss in Game 1.
Rose scored 16 points in the first half.
He went cold after that and wound up hitting just 10 of 27 shots, going 1 of 8 on 3-pointers. He did convert 4 of 6 free throws after failing to get to the line in the opener.
Whether the left ankle he sprained in the first round against Indiana and then twisted at the end of Game 1 was bothering him wasn’t clear.
At times, he seemed more aggressive, but the shots stopped falling.
Noah helped pick up the slack. So did Luol Deng, who scored all but two of his 14 points in the second half and grabbed 12 rebounds in the game.
Carlos Boozer, bothered by a turf toe injury on his right foot, had eight points and 11 boards, and the Bulls let out a small sigh of relief after salvaging a split at home.
They won even though they shot just 39 percent and were 5 of 22 on 3-pointers, because they dominated on the glass and locked down Atlanta.
The Bulls outrebounded the Hawks 58-39 after getting beaten on the boards 38-37 in Game 1 and held them to 33.8 percent shooting, after they converted just over 51 percent in the opener.
Atlanta’s Jeff Teague had another good game filling in for the injured Kirk Hinrich with 21 points, but Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford struggled after coming up big in the opener.
Johnson saw his scoring dip from 34 points to 16. Crawford finished with just 11 after scoring 22 in Game 1, and the Hawks simply couldn’t sustain any momentum.
The Bulls led by as much as 14 and finally put away the Hawks in the closing minutes. With a 77-71 lead, Deng scored on a layup with just under four minutes left to start the game-ending run and Chicago hung on from there.
Rose provided the final point when he hit a free throw in the closing seconds as the fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” – a fitting finish given the way the night began.
Stern presented him with the trophy before the opening tip and told him, “In a league of very valuable players, you are the most valuable.”
Rose thanked the crowd and said the award is “for the city of Chicago, more than anything,” and then posed with his mom Brenda and three brothers.
Once the game started, he was much sharper, at least in the early going, after an uncharacteristically passive performance in Game 1 and the Bulls looked more like a top seed.
Plagued by slow starts in the playoffs, they led 48-37 at halftime thanks to a strong start by Rose.
NOTES: Asked earlier in the day if the Hawks would see more defensive pressure – particularly Teague – Coach Tom Thibodeau quipped, “Well, some would be good.” … Thibodeau wasn’t surprised Rose was a picture of humility during his MVP speech on Tuesday, thanking just about everyone and choking up when he mentioned his family. “He’s like that every day, and that’s the thing that’s most impressive thing about him,” Thibodeau said. “He’s handled everything with so much class and grace. He’s got a great demeanor. He’s never satisfied. He wants the team to do well. He cares so much about his teammates. We just want him to continue doing all the things he’s doing.” … Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was seen wearing a Rose jersey. … Hinrich, the former Bulls player, has a strained right hamstring and is expected to miss the series.
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