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Rose, Deng Lift Bulls in Season Opener

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 26, 2011 4:00PM

Bulls 88, Lakers 87

The NBA gave those fans who cared about the lockout a jumbo-sized Christmas gift last night with a slate of five games to kick off a truncated 66-game regular season. The outcomes of three of those games were academic while the marquee games on the coasts were nail-biters.

But none of the games were played as tight from tipoff to the final buzzer like the contest between the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. The Bulls returned to the NBA's Christmas schedule for the first time since the Jordan era courtesy of their surprising run last season and the above the rim game of reigning MVP and new $94 million man Derrick Rose.

Rose and the Bulls showed last night that they'll still be contenders with their template of tight defense, uncommon depth Rose's growing will to take the final shot, and the quiet backing of Luol Deng. D-Rose scored a team-high 22 points and scored the game winner: a nine-foot floater in the paint out of the reach of Pau Gasol with less than five seconds remaining in regulation. But it wouldn't have been possible without Deng's 21 points and his yeoman's work on Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Bryant scored a game-high 28 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists. But Bryant also committed a eight turnovers and had Deng on him like gum on a shoe throughout the game.

The game was played close throughout, with the Bulls going into halftime with a 56-49 lead. But the Lakers used a 20-12 third period to enter the fourth quarter with a 69-68 lead.

The Lakers extended their lead to 11 with 3-1/2 minutes remaining thanks to the Bulls missing 17 of their first 18 shots in the final period. But a Bryant turnover leading to a Deng breakaway slam sparked the Bulls. The Bulls then hit six of their final seven shots, including Rose's game winner, to clinch the victory.

Carlos Boozer added 15 points, while Rip Hamilton, making his regular season debut in red and black, scored six points in 23 minutes of playing time. The Bulls head up the California coast to take on the Golden State Warriors tonight. (9:30 p.m.; WGN-TV, WMVP-AM 1000)