ATLANTA — Carlos Boozer scored 23 points and MVP Derrick Rose had 12 assists, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 93-73 rout of the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night that finished off the Eastern Conference semifinals in six games.
The 4-2 series victory sent the Bulls to their first conference finals since 1998, when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on their way to a second three-peat. The Bulls fell on hard times after that glorious era, including three straight 60-loss seasons, but they have put together a deep, talented team that won more games than anyone during the regular season.
Yep, even more than the touted Miami Heat, whose Big Three are waiting in the next round with a spot in the NBA Finals on the line. Game 1 is Sunday in Chicago, where the Bulls have enjoyed the NBA's top home-court advantage this season. Including the post-season, Chicago is 41-6 on its home court.
Chicago was 3-0 against Miami during the regular season, with none of the three games decided by more than four points.
Report: Rivers, Celtics working on new contract
BOSTON — A person with knowledge of the negotiations says the Boston Celtics and Coach Doc Rivers are working on a deal that would keep him on their bench for multiple years. The deal is for "more than two or three years," the person told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the details were still being worked out.
Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge did not immediately return calls or emails seeking comment, though he did say on radio Thursday that the sides were working on a long-term deal. Neither Rivers nor his agent, Lonnie Cooper, responded to messages seeking comment.
Rivers told players after being eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday night that he was "leaning heavily to coming back. ... I'm a Celtic and I love our guys. I want to win again here, and I'm competitive as hell. I have a competitive group, so we'll see."
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are all in their mid-30s. Pierce, a career Celtic and the team's captain, is signed for three more years; he will turn 34 before the 2011-12 season opener. Garnett, who turns 35 next week, has one more year on his deal. Allen will turn 36 this summer and then enter the final year of his contract.
Former UK star Rajon Rondo is the only player who was more than a spot starter who is under contract and under 30.
TV anchor found dead
ATLANTA — A 38-year-old TV sports anchor from Chicago was found dead Thursday morning in his Atlanta hotel room, where he was staying while covering the Bulls-Hawks NBA playoff series. Daryl Hawks worked for WMAQ-TV since 2008. Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said Hawks was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, and police do not suspect anything criminal.
Hawks had been staying in the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, which is next to Philips Arena. Hotel employees found him in his room at about 9:30 a.m. after he missed a wake-up call, WMAQ reported.
Wednesday's late game
Thunder 99, Grizzlies 72: Kevin Durant scored 19 points, reserve Daequan Cook added 18 and host Oklahoma City took a series lead —3-2 — in the Western Conference semifinals for the first time.
"We don't want to be overconfident, I think, but I think we've got a good level of confidence," Durant said. "There's a difference. There's a fine line between being cocky and confident."
Game 6 is Friday night in Memphis.
Marc Gasol had 15 points to lead Memphis, which got outrebounded 50-33. The Grizzlies shot a season-worst 36 percent, matched their lowest point total from the regular season and never put up much of a fight in the second half.
"We didn't have the mental edge to win on the road in the playoffs," Shane Battier said. "We just didn't have it. As a result we didn't make the plays."