The Bulls Tuesday opened the 2015-16 NBA season in presidential fashion with a hard fought 97-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls were led by Nikola Mirotic with 19 points, Derrick Rose with 18 and Jimmy Butler 17.
Butler saved the game with 3.6 seconds left as the Cavs attempted an inbounds pass to LeBron James to tie or win the game. Butler intercepted to end the game.
James had 25 points and 10 rebounds while Kevin Love had 18 points and a pair of three pointers in the last minute to lead to the closing dramatics.
The Bulls play in Brooklyn Wednesday.
There was more than the usual excitement for opening night. Not only was it LeBron James and the Cavaliers, but President Barack Obama, after a speaking engagement in Chicago, took a courtside seat opposite the Cavaliers bench to take in the action. And there was plenty from the start as these teams eyed one another like they knew they’d see another playoff rematch. The Cavs broke out quickly against a shaky Bulls offense. But Mirotic hit a pair of threes on the way to 11 first quarter points and the Bulls rode a 17-2 close to the quarter for a 26-17 lead after one quarter. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson coming off the bench midway through the quarter ignited the surge. The Cavs shot 29.6 percent in the first quarter. The Bulls’ defense was the star of the first half as they gave the Cavs little after a lackluster defensive preseason when the Bulls were 29th in the league. Doug McDermott got on the board forcefully late with seven straight Bulls points as the Bulls led at halftime 46-40. The Bulls came out blazing to start the second half with a 61-48 lead as Rose either scored or assisted on the Bulls’ first 15 points of the third quarter. But the Bulls got sloppy with the ball late in the third quarter even with James out and the Cavs got within 71-68 after three quarters. The Cavs pulled into an 83-82 lead midway through the fourth quarter before the Bulls scored 11 straight points to take a 93-83 lead with two minutes remaining and held on down the stretch.