The Cleveland Cavaliers were poised for a comeback bid and had LeBron James set up for a game-tying drive. However, Pau Gasol got in the way, blocked the shot of the NBA’s best player and preserved a 97-95 win for the Chicago Bulls on opening night of the 2015-2016 NBA Season.
The Bulls raced to a 26-17 lead after the first quarter thanks to an excellent start from second-year Montenegro forward Nikola Mirotic, who top scored for his team with 19 points. Chicago still held a 69-57 advantage late in the third quarter before the Cavaliers hit back-to-back three pointers and eventually cut the lead down to three points, 71-68 at the start of the fourth quarter.
It was a closely fought final quarter although the Bulls were in control late holding an eight-point lead with just over a minute to go in the game. However, Kevin Love hit back-to-back three-pointers in a span of 30 seconds to cut the lead down to two points, 97-95 with 32 seconds to go.
Cleveland made a stop on the other end and the team set up James on the drive but got blocked by the Spanish center, who had a total of six blocked shots for the evening. Gasol actually finished with just two points (1-of-7 field goals) for the night but the Bulls got good contributions from the rest of their starters as Derrick Rose finished with 18 points, Jimmy Butler had 17 points and Tony Snell had 11 points.
Off the bench, backup guard E'Twaun Moore finished with 11 points in 14 minutes and Taj Gibson had 10 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Bulls.
James led the Cavaliers with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Love finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Mo Williams, who was starting in place of injured starter Kyrie Irving, added 19 points and seven assists.
Both the Bulls and Cavaliers go on the road in their next games with Chicago facing the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland taking on the Memphis Grizzlies.