It was an electric atmosphere in the United Center as the Chicago Bulls looked for revenge against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the regular season opener.
The Bulls, who were hyped on an improved offense all off-season, came out offensively flat and the Cavaliers jumped on Chicago early. But as the quarter went on, Chicago picked up offensively. The Bulls were led by Nikola Mirotic, who earned the start over Joakim Noah in this game, and he showed it in the first quarter. Mirotic showed his improved confidence in his shooting and helped spread the floor for Chicago. Mirotic helped give Chicago a 26-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was good offensively for Chicago. Derrick Rose, who was active for tonight's game after undergoing orbital surgery, rolled his ankle early on in this game, but he was able to come back and he had a good second quarter. Fred Hoiberg also showed Chicago’s depth by using the depth extensively in this game, particularly the second quarter. The combination play of E’Twaun Moore, Aaron Brooks, and Doug McDermott all played solid minutes in this game. But the Cavaliers stormed back due to some strong three pointing from Richard Jefferson as the Cavs closed a big Chicago lead, going into the halftime only down six.
Chicago and Cleveland kept battling it out in the third, as the teams went back and forth. But things got really interesting in the fourth quarter. Mo Williams, who was starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving, had a solid game tonight. The veteran, who put up 52 in a game last year, had the three-ball going for him tonight, and he used that in the second half. Williams and LeBron James helped Cleveland close the gap and helped the Cavs take the lead with 5:32 left in the game when LeBron hit a floater to put give Cleveland a one-point lead. But then Mirotic, who played an exceptional game, had a three point play on the other end and swung the momentum back to Chicago.
It turned out to be a momentum swinging play as it sparked a 11-2 run, and Chicago looked to cruise to a comfortable win with two minutes left to play and an eight point lead.
But the Cavs stormed back thanks to two back-to-back threes by Kevin Love and suddenly the lead was cut from eight to two and the Cavaliers had the ball with 10 seconds left.
But once again, the Bulls defense stepped up. Pau Gasol had a fantastic defensive play late, as he blocked a driving James with 3.4 seconds left. Then Jimmy Butler stole the ensuing inbounds pass and sealed the win for Chicago.