The dream opening was turning into a nightmare as the ball rolled out to Dwyane Wade in the corner with the shot clock headed toward danger zone and the Bulls firmly there as a collective.
Three seconds later, Wade was signaling to the United Center crowd that it was okay to exhale after a contested, step-back triple over Avery Bradley with 26.3 seconds left, giving the Bulls a five-point lead.
Moments later, he trailed Gerald Green down the sideline before the ensuing inbounds pass, telling the Celtic some things he certainly didn’t want to hear before stripping Green of his 3-point attempt and knocking it off Green’s hands to seal the 105-99 season opening win over the Boston Celtics Thursday night.
It was a small reminder that just in case the Chicago Cubs need some help in the ninth inning Friday night, The Closer can step into the phone booth and save the day.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
It finished Wade’s 22-point, six-rebound, five-assist performance in his official debut as a Chicago Bull, hitting four triples and in effect, masking some serious fourth-quarter questions about shot-creation and continuity that need to be answered over the next several months.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 24 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes, as the night began with a bang but nearly fizzled after the Bulls blew a 15-point lead—with the Celtics threatening to ruin a festive and hopeful atmosphere.
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas lived up to his namesake, nearly becoming a Bulls’ killer with 25 points on just 15 shots, carrying the Celtics’ offense as it rallied to take advantage of a stagnant Bulls’ showing before Wade saved the night.
The Bulls shot just 39 percent from the field compared to the Celtics’ 50, but the Bulls dominated the offensive glass, with seven Bulls picking up six rebounds or more and outrebounding the Celtics by 19.
Taj Gibson scored four quick points when the Celtics first began to threaten midway through the fourth, and the Celtics were about to steal a win before Wade did what he does best.
Minutes before they opened their regular season Thursday against the Celtics, the Bulls announced the signing of shooting guard R.J. Hunter.
Hunter was a first-round pick of the Celtics in 2015 but was waived this preseason. In his lone year with the Celtics he appeared in 38 games. He struggled from the field, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from deep. He ultimately lost out on a roster spot this preseason in a crowded Celtics backcourt.
"Not surprised he got picked up," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. "We said the other day, we had more than 15 NBA players (in training camp) and so it was just a matter of time who he was going to get picked up by. It was good that he did."
Fred Hoiberg was asked at Thursday morning's shootaround about the possibility of adding a player like Hunter. And while he couldn't specifically mention Hunter - as the deal was not official - he did discuss the continued need for outside shooting.
"It’s something that obviously we feel that we’ve got some shooting with this team but you can never have enough, so I’ll say that," Hoiberg said. It’s something where if we can get our playmakers in the paint to be able to spray it out to guys that can spread the floor, that’s obviously something that can help our team.
"So again we feel good about where we are with our playmakers and if we can get some guys to knock down shots I think we have a chance to have an effective year."
Hunter was the darling of the 2015 NCAA Tournament playing for his father at Georgia State. Hunter hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Baylor to propel the 14th-seeded Panthers to an opening-round win.
Hunter was a two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year, averaging 19.7 points per game as a junior.
Hunter's first chance to suit up with the Bulls will be Saturday when they host the Indiana Pacers.