Bulls to play Heat in East finals

ATLANTA -- Derrick Rose's playoff run gets even more fun now.

The Chicago Bulls disposed of the Atlanta Hawks 93-73 on Thursday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, where they will meet the Miami Heat.

"It's going to be fun. It's going to definitely be fun," Rose told ESPN's Lisa Salters after beating the Hawks. "They're a great team. They're playing great together, and I think that we're playing good together. It's going to be a battle."

The Bulls, who open the East finals on Sunday at the United Center, were 3-0 against the Heat during the regular season. The Heat's LeBron James did not play in the first game, and Bulls center Joakim Noah didn't play in the second.

Rose said Thursday that the Bulls' success against the Heat during the regular season doens't mean much now.

"The regular season is over with," Rose said. "The way that they play right now is totally different. Guys really know their role, knocking down shots, they're passing the ball to each other. They're attacking, always attacking, so it's totally different basketball. Everything is going to be a step faster. We've just got to be ready for it."

Rose averaged 29 points against the Heat in the regular season, including a 34-point game in a 99-96 victory on Jan. 15.

The irony for the Bulls is that they will face a Miami team which features three players, in James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, that they chased during free agency in the summer.

The Bulls cleared enough cap space to land two big-ticket free agents and made their pitches to each before James made "The Decision" and teamed up with Wade and Bosh in Miami. The Bulls used their cap space to sign Carlos Boozer and re-stocked their bench with Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas and C.J. Watson.

He might not have the star power next to him like the Miami trio, but Rose is hardly concerned.

"I trust in my teammates, and that's the biggest thing," Rose said. "Anybody any night can have a big night. I think my teammates are damn good. They knock down shots, pass the ball well to each other, run the offense great, play with one another on the offensive end, back door. We just hustle. That's the biggest thing on both ends, just play aggressive and have confidence knowing that we can go out there and win."

Now they will get the chance to face them for the right to go to the NBA Finals.

"We're definitely happy to be there, but we're not just trying to stop there," Rose said. "I think [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] is going to have a great game plan. They have a great team. They are playing well together right now. It's going to be hard but this year wasn't easy."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.