The Madhouse on Madison was rocking as the Bulls won against their Eastern Conference foes the Cavaliers. Cleveland opened up the game rocking, and it was looking like it would potentially be a long night for the Bulls and fans at the United Center. The Cavaliers raced out to a rather quick 6-0 lead. Soon after, one of the night's saviors arose, and his name is Nikola Mirotic. He led the Bulls with 19 points and nine rebounds. Mirotic came out on fire and kept the Bulls afloat with 11 of the Bulls' first 15 points. At that point in the game, it was 15-15.
Minutes in this game were a question for all players, most in particular Derrick Rose. Rose checked out of the game for the first time for Aaron Brooks at the seven-minute mark. The big man rotations were also a question. Hoiberg did not go with the rotations the same way he did the final preseason game and mixed up his combinations of bigs, playing Joakim Noah first off the bench for Pau Gasol at the 5:39 mark.
The defense of the Bulls was a question mark in preseason based off of so many solid defensive efforts under the previous regime. Let's just say the defensive intensity wasn't lacking because the Cavaliers were stuck at 15 for nearly five minutes with the Bulls having a lead at 22-17 by then. The first quarter soon ended with the score at 26-17 Bulls.
The second stanza began with Rose, Butler, Snell, Taj, and Pau on the floor. Mo Williams, who scored the first points for the Cavaliers, could end up being one of the most underrated signings in the league as he is proving even more valuable with the absence of Kyrie Irving. Bulls fans got a scare when Rose came up limping slightly after stepping on LeBron's foot during a drive to the basket. The first intermission came at 8:08 with the score getting up to double digits for the Bulls for the first time at 32-22.
Another familiar face Cavaliers fans are happy to see that Bulls fans aren't is the return of Anderson Varejao. He made his first appearance at 5:52 with the Cavaliers having caught up to only being down by four at the 3:29 mark, soon calling a timeout after a big Tony Snell three to make the score 39-32. The bench came through big for the Bulls and is expected to with the minute reduction of several players. The production for the Bulls in that department came from none other than Doug McDermott who got hot and scored the last three Bulls field goals to end the half at 46-40.
The second half brought lots of excitement in the form of a third triple from Mirotic. Both teams came out firing with the Cavaliers making their first four baskets and the Bulls making their first five. The Bulls got their lead up to a comfortable 13 points, and it would end up being their biggest of the night after two Rose and-one plays.
The man Bulls fans dislike started to peak his head into the game, as J.R. Smith made sure the Cavaliers didn't fall too far behind, scoring seven in the quarter. The Bulls looked rather dominant in this quarter until the close of it, where the defensive liabilities of a small backcourt featuring Aaron Brooks and E'Twaun Moore let the Cavaliers back into the game at the end of three, 71-68.
Chicago started out the final quarter with the same backcourt of Brooks and Moore. The Bulls didn't score until almost two minutes in on a three from Moore to make the score 74-71. Chicago's big money backcourt came storming back into the game with 9:53 to go.
The Bulls would get it up to a six-point lead before a timeout at 77-71. Jimmy Butler was quiet in this one due mainly to the fact he exerts so much energy guarding James, but the man came to life for the Bulls big time in the fourth quarter, providing the Bulls with the extra presence they needed to get past James and company, scoring nine points in the quarter. He and Rose would make the most pivotal baskets for the Bulls in the end, and that's what Chicago will be looking for night in and night out.
The Bulls had a lead of eight at 95-87 with a minute and a half to go, which was quickly erased by the Cavaliers who were in position to tie the game late.
Defense won this game for the Bulls with two key stops, one being a huge block on a LeBron drive courtesy of Pau Gasol, and the next being an inbounds tipped pass to the backcourt by Jimmy Butler to make time expire.
The Bulls finished out with a 97-95 victory, and they will be back in action Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets, while the Cavaliers travel to Memphis to play the Grizzlies.