by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

Despite the gnashing of teeth from the folks who pray at the altar of advanced statistics — the ones trying to convince the world that Dwight Howard is the NBA’s most valuable commodity — the Chicago Bulls’ decisive victory over the Boston Celtics last night, in front of a national TV audience, cemented Derrick Rose as the 2010-’11 MVP.

Rose was his usual spectacular self, scoring 30 points and dishing out 8 assists (while his defense helped turn Rajon Rondo into a non-factor for much of the night.)

Derrick then once again displayed something that can’t be measured through numbers, which coupled with the Bulls’ stifling defense, has turned Chicago into a title contender — a galvanizing, unwaivering belief that the Bulls can beat anyone come Playoff time.

Yes, that includes Boston, a possible Eastern Conference Finals opponent. Yahoo! has the quotes:

Within the Bulls’ locker room, they will privately tell you: The belief changed when the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Teammates remembered Rose’s vibe transforming the room, resonating with everyone. They have such great respect for the Celtics and learned so much from losing to them in the playoffs two years ago. The Bulls suspected they had completely closed the gap on Boston, but word of the Perkins trade ran through the room like a live wire on Feb. 24. The Bulls beat Miami that night and they’ve run off 20 of 23 games since the Celtics made the move.

With Perkins gone, everything changed for the Celtics and they knew it: the toughness, the tenacity, the presence in the post. “He was tough,” Rose said. “We could defend on someone that was big. He was really tough to go around. … They’re different.” Different doesn’t mean better. It means diminished. The Bulls beat the Celtics 44-22 in the paint, beat them badly on the boards, too. They assailed the Celtics the way the Celtics used to assail everyone else. “We know we can beat them,” Rose flatly said.

The surging Bulls are on the verge of locking up the top seed in the Eastern Conference, while Boston looks and sounds like a team unsure of itself (unsure of what the very near future holds.)

The postseason is of course an entirely different animal from these regular season battles, and we all know not to count out the Celtics, but it’s become increasingly clear: in the East, all roads to the NBA Finals go through the Windy City.