The Chicago Bulls secured a hard-fought 99-92 win in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-finals clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.
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The Bulls started strong as they made the most of the Cavs’ long lay-off since wrapping up a series sweep of the Boston Celtics in the last round, and it looked as though there was some rustiness from the hosts early on.
Derrick Rose and Mike Dunleavy led the visitors to a strong lead in the first half but Kyrie Irving hit back in the second quarter to ensure that the Cavs trailed by just five points at the break.
The duel between the two point guards in particular was a highlight as Rose and Irving traded big plays for their respective teams, and that will undoubtedly be a key area for the rest of the series.
However, it was the Bulls star man who had the last laugh on Monday as he finished with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists to lead his team to the win, while Jimmy Butler added 20 points and Pau Gasol had 21 points and 10 rebounds for yet another double-double.
Meanwhile, Irving led the Cavs with 30 points and six assists, but it wasn’t enough for them to protect home court in this series opener, and they will now be under pressure in Game 2 to ensure that they don’t fall into a deeper hole.
Rose gave Bulls fans a scare late on as he sat out the final few seconds with a shoulder problem, but he insisted in his post-game interview that it was just a stinger from a collision and so it isn’t anything serious that will likely make him questionable for the next encounter.