The regular season is finally upon us. There are three games on the schedule tonight but the only one that matters for this post is the Cavs-Bulls matchup on TNT.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers hope to make another run to the Finals while the Chicago Bulls will begin the era of new head coach Fred Hoiberg. The Bulls should be better on the offensive end but their calling card has always been defense. Both teams are back for the most part with the Cavaliers adding some depth at point guard with Mo Williams while Kyrie Irving is still out.
With so much depth in the front court the Bulls went with Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic in the starting lineup. Derrick Rose was sporting his facemask alongside Jimmy Butler. Both teams moved the ball early and often to start their offense.
The first basket of this NBA season was a dunk by Kevin Love off a pass from LeBron James. James later added his first dunk of the season. The Cavs jumped out to a quick lead and had three quick assists. They dominated the glass and had five offensive rebounds in the first quarter. Despite moving the ball and getting good shots they went on a scoring drought by missing seven straight shots which allowed the Bulls to come back and take the lead.
Nikola Mirotic had the hot hand early for the Bulls. He scored 11 points on 4-6 shooting and was 2-2 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. The quarter really changed when the Bulls bench came in. They had more energy; led by Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Their energy and effort got the Cavs into the penalty.
The second unit of the Cavs was not great. They failed to score for the last 5:56 minutes of the quarter. They were down 26-17 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams struggled in the 2nd quarter; they seemed gassed early on and it showed on the court. Upon returning to the game Mirotic picked up two offensive fouls giving him three for the half and he sat down. Derrick Rose exited the game after rolling his ankle but quickly returned and scored a basket. He was 3-12 from the field in the first half. Pau Gasol missed his two shots in the half and didn’t contribute much.
Cleveland could not take advantage of the Bulls sluggish play as they continued to miss open shots. Anderson Varejao played in his first regular season game since tearing his Achilles last season and he provided some energy.
The play on both sides got better as the quarter came to a close. Cleveland struggled shooting the long ball but got two three pointers from Love and LeBron to close the quarter. Doug McDermott got hot for the Bulls and scored their last seven points in the half. Chicago went into halftime with a 46-40 lead. Cleveland only shot 32% from the field and 33% from the three point line. Chicago shot 40% from the field and 36% from three. The Bulls were winning the battle on the boards 29-25 but the Cavs had 12 assists on 16 made baskets. LeBron led all scorers with 13 points.
The start of the third quarter was much better than the second. Both teams traded baskets but the Bulls went on a quick 10-0 run to push their lead to 13.
During that stretch Pau Gasol hit his first basket and Mirotic hit another three pointer. Derrick Rose attacked the basket and scored seven points in the quarter. However Mirotic picked up another foul and the Bulls offense slowed down.
On the other side Cleveland continued to share the ball. They added another seven assists in the quarter as J.R. Smith finally knocked a few baskets. The Cavs second unit played better on both ends of the floor. They were able to go on a 8-0 run to end the quarter without LeBron James. The Bulls 13 point lead was cut to just 3; 71-68 heading into the fourth quarter.
Mo Williams quickly tied the game up at 71 in the fourth. Chicago responded by going on a 6-0 run. After missing four straight shots and having two shot clock violations; LeBron James finally stopped the drought for the Cavs.
The teams continued to trade baskets as the Cavaliers briefly took a one point lead 83-82 on a LeBron James basket. The Bulls answered with a 9-0 led by Jimmy Butler and Mirotic.
The Bulls were up 95-87 with 1:31 before Kevin Love got hot and scored eight straight points to cut the lead to just two points. Pau Gasol made a huge defensive play by blocking a LeBron James layup attempt. Cleveland would turn the ball over and not get off a final shot. Pau only scored two points but he had six blocks.
Derrick Rose was more aggressive in the 2nd half and finished with 18 points on 8-22 shooting. Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with 19 points. Jimmy Butler spent a lot of energy playing defense on LeBron James but scored a crucial nine points in the fourth quarter to finish with 17 points.
LeBron led the way for the Cavs with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Mo Williams added 19 points and Kevin Love had 18 points.
Cleveland shot just 9-29 from beyond the arc and 40% overall. They were also 10-17 from the free throw line. The Cavs did have 26 assists on 38 made baskets. Chicago had 10 blocks and managed to shoot 36% from beyond the arc.
The Cavaliers are on the road to face the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Bulls head to Brooklyn to take on the Nets.