By Conor Nash, Staff Reporter
The 2015-16 NBA season is officially underway as the Chicago Bulls take down the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-95. This was the first time the Cavs and Bulls have met since the Cavs knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs last season in six games. The Bulls were without three point specialist Mike Dunleavy as he recovers from off season back surgery, but the Cavs didn’t have star guard Kyrie Irving because of knee injury. Instead of Fred Hoiberg’s ideal fast paced offense, the Bulls played excellent defense to shut down the stars of the Cavs.
The first quarter began with the Cavs off to a strong start. Kevin Love had the first points of the season on a dunk assisted by Lebron James. From there, Lebron took over with six points in the first quarter forcing the Bulls to call an early timeout. Whatever Hoiberg said in the huddle sparked a Bulls run with two straight three pointers from Nikola Mirotic. From then on, the Bulls went on a 14-2 run to end the first quarter with a 27-16 lead. Unlike former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Fred Hoiberg gave his starters more of a rest in the first quarter by letting bench players E’Twaun Moore and Taj Gibson feast on the Cavs terrible defense. The Bulls had a quick scare in the first as beloved point guard Derrick Rose came up limping after falling on Cavs center Timofey Mozgov. Hoiberg took Rose out, but not for long. Rose returned to start the second quarter for the Bulls.
As the second quarter began, the Cavs and Bulls seemed to trade baskets back and forth. The Cavs finally got their star’s going with 15 combined points from forwards Lebron James, Kevin Love, and guard Mo Williams. Cavs center Anderson Varejao finally returned to the court after a season ending achilles tear. While the Cavs star’s heated up, the Bulls let their bench play most of the second quarter. Second year, top draft pick Doug McDermott logged his first points of the season with a deep three to switch the momentum of the game. From there Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell, and McDermott controlled the scoring for the Bulls. The second quarter wasn’t as high scoring as the first, but the Cavs made up some ground as the game went into half with a score of 46-40.
The second half began with the Cavs continuing their hot start with Lebron James and Kevin Love making three quick baskets. However, they couldn’t take the lead, for Rose and company kept their shooting touch. J.R Smith and Matthew Dellavedova finally got onto the scoreboard with clutch three pointers to keep the score close. Joakim Noah, who had a quiet first half, finally started to pick things up by grabbing rebounds left and right. Towards the end of the third quarter, Noah pulled a rebound down and landed right on Timofey Mozgov’s foot and would sit the rest of the game with a strained left hamstring. Noah finished with zero points and nine rebounds. That’s a huge blow to a Bull’s team that’s low on big men. The third quarter finished on a clutch three from Mo Williams cutting the Bulls lead to three. Score after three: 71-68 Bulls.
As the final quarter started, the Cavs needed to pick up their play, and Lebron James stepped up to the plate and tied things all up. After trading baskets to start, James took over and made three consecutive shots putting the Cavs up 83-82. This was the first lead for the Cavs since 6:16 left in the first quarter. Although the Cavs held that lead for about 10 seconds, for Nikola Mirotic and Jimmy Butler started to sink shot after shot, increasing the Bulls lead to 95-87. When we thought the Bulls had this in the bag, Kevin Love made two clutch three pointers decreasing the lead to 95-93. Going into the final minute, Bulls up 97-95, Mirotic missed a costly layup and Lebron pulled it down, quickly calling a timeout. 10 seconds remaining. Lebron brings it up the court, teammates spread out giving him a path to the hoop. As he drives, Pau Gasol comes out of nowhere for the biggest play of the game. He rejects Lebron to keep the Bulls ahead. 3 seconds left. Mo Williams is inbounding the ball, trying to get it to Lebron. He throws the ball up and Jimmy Butler knocks the ball in mid air, sealing the Bulls victory. Final Score 97-95. Top performers were Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic with 19 points and 9 boards and Cavs forward Lebron James with 25 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists. The Bulls begin the season 1-0, knocking the Cavs to 0-1. Bulls next play Wednesday, October 27th against the Brooklyn Nets while the Cavs also play Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.