Bulls Beat Pacers, Heat Down 76ers to Take 2-0 Leads in NBA Playoff Series

The Chicago Bulls used a late rally to beat the Indiana Pacers 96-90, while the Miami Heat never trailed in routing the Philadelphia 76ers 94-73 in their National Basketball Association playoff series.

The Bulls and Heat, the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference, hold 2-0 leads in their best-of-seven first-round series.

“We just wanted to protect home court,” LeBron James, who led the Heat with 29 points last night, said in a televised interview. “We did what we’re supposed to.”

The New York Knicks visit the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference series tonight after losing the opener 87-85 on Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 11 seconds left.

The Knicks may be without point guard Chauncey Billups because of a knee injury suffered during Game 1 in Boston.

“I’m disappointed. This is the worst time, getting hurt in the first round of the first game of a tough series,” Billups told reporters after sitting out yesterday’s practice. “I know the team really needs me.”

The Orlando Magic host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 tonight after losing Game 1 at home 103-93 three days ago.

The Portland Trail Blazers visit the Dallas Mavericks in today’s final game. The Mavericks won the opener of the Western Conference series.

Rose Lifts Bulls

Derrick Rose scored 14 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter last night at the United Center in Chicago as the Bulls pulled away from the Pacers, who were the only team to make the playoffs with a losing record.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Rose said in a televised interview. “We’re just happy that we won.”

Carlos Boozer added 17 points and 16 rebounds for Chicago, which had the NBA’s best record during the regular season.

The Bulls, who have won 11 straight games, made their final 15 free throws and outscored the Pacers 29-23 in the fourth quarter. They took the lead for good on a 3-point play by Rose with 5:43 remaining. Danny Granger scored 19 points to lead Indiana.

The best-of-seven series moves to Indianapolis for Game 3 on April 21.

“We’re standing toe to toe with this team. I’m very proud of our guys,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said during a news conference. “We’ll take it back to Indy and see what happens.”

At AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, the Heat rolled to the first win of more than 10 points this postseason. Chris Bosh added 21 points and 11 rebounds for Miami, while Dwyane Wade played through migraine headaches to score 14 points.

Heat Roll to Win

The Heat, the second favorite to win the NBA title after the Los Angeles Lakers, outscored the 76ers 30-18 during the second quarter to open a 49-31 halftime lead. Miami stretched its advantage to 28 points during the fourth quarter and limited the seventh-seeded 76ers to 34 percent shooting.

“If they’re playing on top of their game, they’re a better team,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to play, compete and fight. It’s going to be very difficult to beat them.”

Miami has won nine straight games against Philadelphia dating back to the 2009-10 season.

The teams shift to Philadelphia for the next two games, with Game 3 scheduled for April 21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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