The Atlanta Hawks stared down Superman and they weren’t blinking against the Bulls, either Joe Johnson scored 34 points and Atlanta beat top-seeded Chicago 103-95 on Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
As if the loss itself wasn’t bad enough, the Bulls got a scare when Derrick Rose came up limping after he turned his left ankle at the end of the game. Their MVP candidate stepped on Jamal Crawford’s foot as he dribbled out the final seconds and was helped off by teammates and a trainer.
“I should be OK,” Rose said. “I’ll probably get treatment right now, go home, get some more treatment and be ready to go for [Game 2] Wednesday.”
A source familiar with the situation told ESPNChicago.com on Monday night that Rose would be announced as the MVP, making him the youngest player to receive the award and only the second Bull along with Michael Jordan.
That announcement is expected Tuesday, with the presentation at Game 2 on Wednesday. If the Bulls keep playing like this, that could be their final appearance at the United Center.
The Hawks went on a 15-2 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to turn a 69-65 deficit into an 80-71 lead with 10:27 remaining.
Johnson scored eight points during that stretch, and the Hawks hung on.
Johnson was brilliant, hitting 12 of 18 shots and all five 3-point attempts. Crawford scored 22 points, and Jeff Teague added 10 while starting at the point for the injured Kirk Hinrich and wound up getting the game ball from coach Larry Drew.
“We’re the team that nobody talks about,” Crawford said.
Well, this is a good way to get them talking — shoot 51.3 percent against one of the league’s stingiest defenses and take a series opener.
As alarming as all that was for the Bulls, though, the sight of Rose limping off sent a real shiver through Chicago.
“It’s tough when your best player is limping off the court with an injury that you know he’s had before,” center Joakim Noah said. “It’s tough, but right now, we have a game on Wednesday in less than 48 hours.”
Rose twisted the same ankle in the opening round against Indiana, but even before he limped off the court, this certainly wasn’t his best night.
He scored 24 points, but he was just 11 of 27 from the field and did not attempt a free throw.
Luol Deng scored 21 points for Chicago while Carlos Boozer added 14 points and eight rebounds despite a turf toe injury on his right foot. But it was a rough night overall for the Bulls — particularly on defense.
“The intensity wasn’t right,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The start of the game was poor in terms of ball direction, in terms of challenging shots, in terms of showing help. There wasn’t one aspect of the defense that was good. They’re too good of a team to play like that.”
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