It wasn’t heaven; it was Nebraska.
That was the happy ending for a sellout crowd in Lincoln as Doug McDermott made a 14 foot fadeaway jumper with a second left to give the Bulls a 103-102 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Bulls thus finished the preseason 4-4. The Bulls will open the regular season Tuesday in the United Center against the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
It was a tough night for home state favorite McDermott from Creighton missing his first seven shots. But coach Fred Hoiberg ran a play for McDermott after the Mavericks took a 103-102 lead on a three pointer with five seconds left. McDermott finished with five points.
Taj Gibson was the leading scorer with 16, but the highlight was Derrick Rose’s first 2015-16 game appearance after orbital surgery. Rose had eight points in 10 minutes, all in the first half in accelerating the Bulls offense. Rose made three strong driving layups and then hit his first jumper on a pullup 16 footer. He was four of six, though the last shot was a 75 footer to end the first half.
Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell each had 14 points, and it appeared the Bulls had the game when Snell made three with a minute left to give the Bulls a six-point lead. But the Mavs came back against a Bulls group before McDermott sent his nearly 20,000 friends home happy.
The story of the guys from the Land of Lincoln coming to the city named Lincoln in Nebraska for the final preseason game was the first 2015-16 game appearance of Rose. The Bulls star guard after surgery three weeks ago, wearing a specially designed mask to protect his face, made his much anticipated debut. It was impressive coming off the bench with 7:30 left in the first quarter. Rose played 5:37, the offense immediately kicking into higher gear as Rose accounted for three driving layups on his own and an assist on a Nikola Mirotic jumper before the Mavs defense could set. The Bulls got another aggressive start from Tony Snell, driving harder to the basket for seven early points, and Taj Gibson coming off the bench to power inside for six first quarter points and a 32-28 Bulls lead as the Bulls shot 60 percent. It was a tough second quarter for the Bulls, shooting six of 23 as they started with their defensive unit and stalled on offense. Coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose would be limited to one first half stint. But Rose returned late in the second quarter and with Bobby Portis’ shooting, the Bulls after falling behind by nine drew within 53-49 at halftime. Rose had eight points in 10 minutes. Rose would sit for the second half. The Bulls went to Mirotic early in the third quarter and he responded with eight points in the quarter. But the Bulls with some lazy defense fell behind 65-59 before Joakim Noah and Gibson returned to provide some defensive energy to get within 77-74 heading into the fourth quarter.