CHICAGO – Never mind what everyone else was thinking, Derrick Rose insisted he didn't expect the Chicago Bulls to roll over the Indiana Pacers.
They certainly didn't in Game 1.
Rose scored 39 points and found Kyle Korver for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 48 seconds left, helping top-seeded Chicago stage a late rally to beat the Pacers 104-99 in their playoff opener on Saturday.
"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."
For the Pacers, the loss was tough to accept. They controlled most of the game, but couldn't put it away.
They'd make little runs, Chicago would come back, and the Pacers would pull ahead again. With Rose staring at them, Danny Granger never felt safe.
"With Derrick Rose on the other team? No," Granger said. "With Derrick Rose on the other team, no. 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."
Trailing 98-88 in the final period, the Bulls showed the resolve that carried them to a league-best 62-20 record, closing with a 16-1 run over the final 3:38.
Rose scored seven during the impressive finish, including a three-point play and a floater that tied it at 99 with 1:27 left. He then hit Korver with a cross-court pass for a 3 that gave the Bulls their first lead at 102-99.
Danny Granger then missed a 3 and Joakim Noah got the rebound. Rose eventually hit two free throws with 14.8 seconds remaining.
Game 2 in this best-of-7 series is Monday night at the United Center.
Rose again showed why he is an MVP favorite even though he was off target. He missed each of his nine 3-point attempts but made 19 of 21 at the foul line and finished with six rebounds and six assists.
Luol Deng added 18 points and Korver finished with 13, no shot bigger than that 3.
Rose said an open 3 is "like a layup" for Korver, who credited the dynamic point guard for finding him.
"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."
Granger led Indiana with 24 points, and Tyler Hansbrough shook off an elbow from Kurt Thomas to finish with 22. Darren Collison scored 17, but had just two in the second half, and the Pacers came up just short in their first playoff game in five years.
Even so, they gave the Bulls all they could handle.
With the Pacers leading by 10, Deng hit two free throws with 3:28 remaining to start the comeback. Noah followed with a tip-in and dunk to make it a four-point game, and the Bulls were on their way.
Exactly how far they'll go remains to be seen, but they're certainly aiming high after securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They won nine straight and 21 of 23 down the stretch, and anything less than a big run would be a big disappointment.
Meanwhile, the Pacers will try to shake this one off and figure out how a game that looked so promising ended in defeat.
"We put forth a good effort, but who cares?" Granger said. "It's 0-1."
The Pacers were concerned late in the third quarter when Hansbrough was elbowed by Thomas as he was trying to rebound a miss by Rose. Hansbrough stayed down for several minutes and, still woozy, had to take a seat in the tunnel.
He eventually walked to the locker room on his own power. He returned with 5:33 remaining, and it looked as if he might lead the Pacers to a win.
Instead, the Bulls came surging back, erasing that deficit after Hansbrough hit back-to-back jumpers and converted a three-point play to make it 98-88. Now, they can breathe a little easier after a hard, physical game.
"Right now I'm feeling good and can't wait to go eat," Rose said.
"This one hurts real bad," Roy Hibbert said.
NOTES: Chicago held a 49-34 rebounding advantage. ... The Bulls went 53-12 after a 9-8 start. ... Former Bulls assistant Johnny Bach presented the game ball before the opening tip.