CHICAGO — Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson smiled widely as he revealed the recipient of the team’s game ball Friday night.
It was Cleveland coach David Blatt, who earned his first career victory as the Cavaliers earned a 114-108 overtime win against the Chicago Bulls.
“That was a big win for him,” Thompson said. “We messed up his hair-do.”
If not for a late rally by the Cavaliers, Blatt might have been yanking his hair out after the game instead. The Cavaliers (1-1) overcame a five-point deficit in the final minute of the fourth quarter to force overtime, and the Bulls (1-1) faded down the stretch to drop their home opener in front of a sellout crowd of 22,879.
LeBron James led Cleveland with 36 points and eight rebounds after a forgettable season debut one night earlier against the New York Knicks. Thompson added 16 points and 13 rebounds, 12 of which came on the offensive glass.
The Bulls played down the stretch without point guard Derrick Rose, who was limited to nine minutes in the second half after he injured his left ankle on an awkward landing in the second quarter. Rose remained in the game after the play but managed only two points in the second half after scoring 18 in the first half.
After the game, Rose said X-rays on his injured ankle were negative.
“Don’t worry, man,” Rose said. “It’s just an ankle sprain.”
Yet Rose admitted that watching from the bench in the fourth quarter was difficult.
“Very hard,” Rose said. “Especially this game, when you’re playing against a team like that. It’s hard, but at the same time, you know that you’ll be playing against them three more times (this season).”
The Cavaliers trailed by five points with 47.1 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, but they rallied behind a pair of free throws by James and a three-point play by guard Kyrie Irving to tie the score at 98. James fed an inbound pass to forward Kevin Love for a last-second shot at the end of the fourth quarter, but Love missed a 3-point attempt to prompt overtime.
The late stand by Cleveland spoiled a fourth-quarter comeback by the Bulls, who had clawed to a lead because of a 10-point fourth-quarter outburst by veteran guard Kirk Hinrich. In the span of 55 seconds, Hinrich drilled two shots from beyond the arc and one from just inside the 3-point line to put the Bulls on top 98-93 with less than a minute to play.
Hinrich and Rose led the Bulls with 20 points apiece. Forward Pau Gasol added 15 points and nine rebounds in his home debut for Chicago, and center Joakim Noah pulled down 13 rebounds.
Blatt pointed to his players’ comeback as proof that they could bounce back from adversity, particularly in light of their home opening loss against the Knicks.
“Tonight, we came here determined to win,” Blatt said. “We wanted to play well and consistently. We beat a very good team here tonight.”
The Cavaliers headed into the fourth quarter with a 78-69 lead after a 19-13 run to close out the third quarter. Love knocked down a hook shot and a jump shot after the Bulls had sliced the deficit to three, and Thompson muscled into the paint for a basket against Gasol to help extend Cleveland’s lead to nine.
The Bulls allowed 20 offensive rebounds to the Cavaliers and were outrebounded in the game by a margin of 52-42. Cleveland outscored Chicago 58-44 in the paint and earned a 22-14 edge in second chance points.
“I thought rebounding was a problem from the beginning,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “In this league, you’ve got to play with an edge. We knew we would get their best coming off of last night, and we did.”
The Cavaliers led 58-52 at halftime thanks largely to James, who had 19 points before the break. James jelled more easily with his new teammates, enjoying a turnover-free first half one night after he committed eight turnovers.
NOTES: Cleveland C Anderson Varejao agreed to a reported three-year, $30 million contract extension Friday. “We’re all very happy in the organization,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “Andy’s a valued member of this team, and he’s really part of the fabric of Cleveland sports.” … Bulls G/F Jimmy Butler (thumb sprain) warmed up during pregame drills but remained out for a second consecutive game. … Blatt said he leaned too heavily on F LeBron James by playing him 43 minutes in the season opener, but James said he didn’t mind the workload. “I didn’t even feel it,” James said. … The Bulls will not meet the Cavaliers again until Jan. 19.
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