ATLANTA ---Finally, the real Chicago Bulls showed up in the playoffs.
Naturally, Derrick Rose led the way.
Looking every bit like the MVP, Rose sliced up Atlanta for a career-high 44 points as the Bulls seized control of the Eastern Conference semifinals with their best performance of the postseason, romping to a 99-82 victory over the Hawks in Game 3 Friday night.
"He's tough to cover anyway," said Atlanta's Jeff Teague. "But when his jump shot is falling, he's the MVP."
The Bulls lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 Sunday night.
Teague was about the only highlight for Atlanta, scoring 21 points. That wasn't nearly enough against the Rose onslaught. He made 16 of 27 shots from the field, including four 3s. He dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, came up with a steal and even blocked a shot.
"Just attacking the whole game," Rose said. "That was my whole thought process."
After struggling to put away Indiana in the opening round and losing at home in the opener of this series, the Bulls looked every bit like the team that won 62 games during the regular season. While everyone will point to Rose's performance, the Chicago bench played a key role in a decisive second-quarter spurt. And everyone chipped in on the boards, leading the Bulls to a 47-34 edge that included 18 offensive rebounds.
"Hustle plays," Rose called them. "That's who we are as a team."
The Hawks stunned the Bulls in Game 1, and kept it close most of the way in Game 2 before losing by 13. Atlanta returned home with plenty of confidence, believing it survived Chicago's best punch and showed it could match up just fine with a team that won 18 more games during the regular season.
Not on this night against Rose, who finally seemed to shake off a nagging sprained ankle.
"They beat us up," Atlanta coach Larry Drew said. "They completely beat us up."
Joe Johnson was held to 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting for the Hawks. Jamal Crawford had only seven.