Hot Johnson carries Atlanta to victory

CHICAGO - Joe Johnson scored 34 points and the Atlanta Hawks beat Derrick Rose and the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, 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 major scare when Rose came up limping at the end of the game. The MVP candidate stepped on Jamal Crawford’s foot as he dribbled out the final seconds and was helped off by teammates and a trainer.

The fifth-seeded 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 minutes, 27 seconds to go.

Johnson hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points during that stretch, and the Hawks hung on.

Game 2 is Wednesday at the United Center.

Johnson was brilliant, hitting 12 out of 18 shots and all five 3-point attempts.

Crawford, a graduate of Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, scored 22 points and Jeff Teague added 10 while starting at the point for the injured Kirk Hinrich. The Hawks shot 51.3 percent against one of the league’s stingiest defenses.

As alarming as that was, though, the sight of Rose limping off sent a real shiver through Chicago. The Bulls can’t afford to lose him if they’re going to keep this run going, even though it wasn’t his best night.

He scored 24 points after a slow start but was 11-for-27 from the field.

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.

Pushed by Indiana in a tough five-game opening series, the Bulls fought through a brutal first quarter to trail by one point at halftime and led by as many as six in the third quarter before this one slipped away.

Johnson started the go-ahead run with two free throws with just under a minute left in the third, and Zaza Pachulia hit two more with less than a second left in the quarter to put the Hawks ahead for good, 72-71.

Johnson then hit a 3 off a turnover by Deng to start the fourth. Teague added a floater and Crawford made a 3-pointer to make it 80-71.

The night started with a strong rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Jim Cornelison, fans erupting as he belted out “land of the free and the home of the brave” in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing.

A team that catapulted to a league-best 62 wins watched as Atlanta was 13-for-22 in the first quarter while grabbing a 28-18 lead.

The Bulls, meanwhile, missed their first nine shots and were 6-for-21 in the quarter, with Rose missing all seven shots.

He finally connected right after he checked back into the game midway through the second, when he scooped in a left-handed layup in transition, making it 39-34.

He also hit a 3 later in the quarter, and the Bulls walked into the locker room trailing 51-50 at the half.

The Hawks scored the first nine points and took an 11-2 lead before the Bulls hit their first shot.

Deng, who had converted two free throws, stopped that drought when he drove across the lane with 6:45 left and added a tip-in midway through the quarter.