(The Sports Xchange) - Nikola Mirotic scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls held on for a 97-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday in the season opener for both teams.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose added 18 points and five assists as Chicago’s Fred Hoiberg won his NBA coaching debut five months after the team dismissed Tom Thibodeau.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 25 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes. Kevin Love tallied 18 points and eight rebounds in his first game since dislocating his left shoulder in April.
President Barack Obama watched the game from a front-row seat. Obama abandoned his standard suit and tie for a casual dress shirt, and he cheered after several aggressive drives to the rim by Rose.
The Cavaliers pulled within 97-95 in the game’s final seconds. James drove to the paint in an attempt to even the score but Bulls forward Pau Gasol swatted James’ layup attempt out of bounds.
After trailing for most of the game, Cleveland grabbed an 83-82 lead on a layup by James. The Bulls responded with an 11-2 run to regain a 93-85 edge.
Cleveland closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run to cut Chicago’s lead to 71-68. The rally took place without James, who lay on his bothersome back near the Cavaliers’ bench and stared toward the rafters. James returned to the game with 9:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Chicago led 46-40 at halftime behind Hoiberg’s spread offense, which featured three-point shooting from Mirotic, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell.
McDermott put the Bulls on top by nine points with a three-pointer from the left and a baseline drive. James answered with a three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in the half to slice the deficit to six.
A 17-2 run by the Bulls in the final six minutes of the first quarter gave Chicago a 26-17 lead. Mirotic initiated the rally by hitting back-to-back shots from beyond the arc and converting a three-point play for nine consecutive points.
Compiled by Peter Rutherford