MIAMI, April 17 – Miami and Chicago started slowly then staged furious rallies to win their NBA Eastern Conference playoff openers on Saturday, but Dwight Howard couldn't bring Orlando back against Atlanta.Derrick Rose finished with 39 points as Chicago trailed for 47 minutes before charging from behind for a 104-99 win over the Indiana Pacers, while Miami came back from a 12-point first-quarter deficit to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 97-89.
In Orlando it was a different story as the Atlanta Hawks overcame a huge night by Orlando star Dwight Howard to shock the Magic 103-93.
Joe Johnson scored 25 points and Jamal Crawford added 23 for the Hawks, who were eliminated by Orlando in last year’s playoffs in the most lopsided four-game sweep in NBA history.
This time around, they wasted no time in making sure there will be no sweep — at least not by Orlando.
Although Howard equalled a career high with 46 points and also grabbed 19 rebounds, Jameer Nelson was the only other Magic player in double figures with 27 points.
The Magic will try to even the series when they host game two on Tuesday.
Miami’s big three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh combined for 63 points as the Heat held on to beat the 76ers and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"The only number that matters right now is 1-0," Wade said. "That’s all it’s about."
Bosh scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, James finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds and Wade scored 17 for the Heat.
Wade turned it on down the stretch, scoring five of his 17 points in the final 94 seconds.
"I was just reading the game, getting off the ball a lot, just trying to read how they defended me so at that moment I thought I would get a little aggressive," Wade said.
Game two in also in Miami on Monday.
Thaddeus Young had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers, while Jrue Holiday added 19 and Elton Brand finished with 17 for the 76ers, who made the Heat work for the victory.
"No team is just going to lie down," Bosh said. "You’re not going to play an 82-game season and work this hard just to lie down when you get there."
Philadelphia jumped out to an early lead then climbed back into the game in the fourth quarter. They scored 12 consecutive points in the fourth to get within one point, 88-87.
They were unable to take the lead in the closing minutes even though they held star-studded Miami scoreless for over four minutes of the final quarter.
"Second time in three weeks that we had a big lead and let it slip," Philadelphia’s Elton Brand said.
"Right now, it’s the playoffs. Win these games or go home. So it’s more of a discouraging feeling knowing that we could have won these games."
The Bulls got off to a dismal start then spent the rest of the game playing catchup before Rose took over in the final minute.
"We knew it was going to be a hard game," Rose said. "From the beginning I guess we weren’t prepared for it. Next time I think we’ll be ready."
The Bulls host game two on Monday.
Kyle Korver hit the go-ahead three-point shot with 48 seconds left for the Bulls, who outscored the Pacers 16-1 over the final 3:38 of the fourth to take a 1-0 series lead.
Korver’s three-pointer came on a pass from Rose and gave the Bulls their first lead of the contest 102-99.
"Derrick made a great read," Korver said. "If my man helps, he’s going to kick it out to me. If he doesn’t help, he’s going to drive into the lane. That’s why it’s set up that way."
Asked if they ever felt safe with a lead Saturday, Pacers forward Danny Granger said they can never relax when Rose is on the floor.
"With Derrick Rose on the other team? No," said Granger. "It’s like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend. Everytime you tell her you don’t want to talk to her, she’ll show up at your door again."
Rose went 19-of-21 from the free-throw line and also had six assists and a half dozen rebounds. Luol Deng added 18 points and Korver finished with 13 in the win.
The Bulls, who finished with a league leading 62 wins and 20 losses, trailed 98-88 late in the game.
But Rose refused to lose, scoring seven points during the Bulls’ 16-1 run, including a three-pointer followed by a field goal that tied it 99-99 with 87 seconds remaining.
Rose hit two more free throws with 14 seconds left to help clinch the win.