Well, 62 wins and two playoff series victories later, it’s still going strong. The Bulls knocked off Atlanta on Thursday and now comes their toughest test: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
“We know that we have something special in front of us,” Rose said.
The Bulls won more regular-season games than any other team, locking up homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs after a massive roster overhaul that came on the heels of back-to-back 41-win seasons and first-round playoff exits. The moves that sparked the turnaround are well-documented, from the firing of Vinny Del Negro and hiring of Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau to the execution of their backup plan after James, Wade and Chris Bosh wound up together in Miami.
The Bulls instead got bruising power forward Carlos Boozer and a cast of role players that gave them one of the league’s deepest rotations. Of course, it helped that a certain point guard from the city’s South Side continued his rapid rise.
“They have great players on their team,” Rose said. “Great passers. They have great shooters on their team.”
The Bulls boast the youngest MVP in Rose, who at age 22 delivered one of the best all-around seasons by a point guard and became the only Chicago player not named Jordan to win the award. He averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists, making him the only player this season to rank among the top 10 in both categories.
The playoffs haven’t been as easy.
He struggled at times against Indiana’s double teams in the opening round. His shooting is down from 44.5 percent to 40 percent in the postseason, too. Even so, he’s still averaging 28.8 points and 8.2 assists.
“We’ve been a team all season,” Boozer said. “It hasn’t been a one-man show. But our one man’s pretty good!”
Boozer wasn’t bad, either, in the clinching Game 6 win against Atlanta and that was a good sign for the Bulls. He scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out five assists in what was easily his best performance of the postseason after being limited by a turf toe injury on his right foot.
If he keeps that up, he’ll be hearing more “Booz!” than boos from fans who had been making it clear they weren’t pleased.
“Offensively you could see he got his bounce back,” Thibodeau said.