By ANDREW SELIGMAN (AP Sports Writer)
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls were out of sorts long before Derrick Rose hobbled off the court at the end of the game.
The MVP’s ankle injury was just added to their pain.
Joe Johnson scored 34 points and Atlanta beat top-seeded Chicago 103-95 on May 2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“Joe really got on a run,” Rose said. “He hit a couple of tough shots.”
The Bulls, meanwhile, came out flat to start the game and couldn’t pull it out in the end. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they got a big scare at the end of the game when Rose turned his left ankle and came up limping. He stepped on Jamal Crawford’s foot as he dribbled out the final seconds and was helped off by teammates and a trainer, casting a cloud on a night when news came that he is the league’s MVP.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed reports Monday night that the award is his, making him the league’s youngest winner and the Bulls’ second alongside Michael Jordan.
If the Bulls keep playing like this, that could be their final appearance at the United Center, particularly if Rose is limited.
“It’s fine,” said Rose, who expects to be ready for Game 2. “I just twisted it a little at the end. I’ll just get some treatment.”
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 sprained 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. More importantly, he didn’t score until the 4:58 mark of the second quarter.
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.