The Bulls Thursday welcomed Dwyane Wade back to Chicago, and Dwyane Wade was a welcome sight for the Bulls in a 105-99 victory over the Boston Celtics in the Bulls season opener.
Wade was crucial in helping hold off a furious late Boston rally with a three pointer on a broken play and a key defensive play on an attempted three pointer by Gerald Green to enable the Bulls to avoid losing a 14-point fourth quarter lead.
Wade had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists while Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 24 points and seven rebounds. Taj Gibson was crucial with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Nikola Mirotic was big off the bench with 15 points and nine rebounds and a crucial defensive play late in the game, forcing Boston rookie Jaylen Brown into a turnover. The Bulls were 11 of 25 on threes and outrebounded Boston 55-36. Rajon Rondo added nine assists.
The Bulls were hanging onto an 84-80 lead with just over nine minutes left when they got a boost from new addition Michael Carter-Williams. He made a three on a fine pass out from Mirotic and drove into the lane for a short jumper and 93-81 Bulls lead with 7:38 remaining. But Boston came running back behind Isaiah Thomas to get within 95-90 with 4:32 left. Boston on a 16-4 run got within 99-97 before Butler made a pair of free throws after being fouled on a defensive rebound.
The Bulls just before the game announced the signing of R.J. Hunter, a 2015 Celtics first round draft pick, as the 15th player on the roster. Hunter is regarded as a good three-point shooter. Butler then welcomed the fans for the season opener on behalf of the team and Wade received a warm ovation in his return to his native Chicago in his first game as a Bulls player.
It was a terrific start for the Bulls, a 15-point first quarter lead and a 30-20 lead after one quarter with Taj Gibson strong inside with six points and three rebounds and Rajon Rondo with five of the team’s nine first quarter assists on 11 baskets. Rondo was spectacular with a midcourt strip of Isaiah Thomas early and Dwyane Wade and Rondo with threes. The Bulls surged ahead 37-25 early in the second quarter with the second of Wade three three pointers in the first half. The Celtics then took advantage of the Bulls second unit with a 9-0 run to pull within 41-38. But with Wade and Butler combining for six of seven threes in the first half, the Bulls led 57-49 at halftime. Wade had 14 in the first half and Butler 11; 15 assists on 20 baskets. The Bulls slowed up to start the third quarter and lost the ball with three turnovers, the Celtics with a 14-3 run after the Bulls led by 10 with just over nine minutes left in the third to pull within 64-63 midway through the third. The Bulls lost the lead on a Thomas three with 4:22 left in the third. But a Mirotic pull up and long three enabled the Bulls to take a 79-73 lead entering the fourth quarter. Butler had 19 points after three with the Bulls showing their best plus/minus when Wade was playing.