CHICAGO -- Given the history, it was tough to decide what was bigger news Monday at the United Center: The late surge that gave the Chicago Bulls a 96-81 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers or the right hamstring injury that kept Bulls guard Derrick Rose on the bench for the final 3:15.
In the locker room, Rose insisted the injury was nothing major, but after he missed all of last season while recovering from knee surgery, no mishap is minor news.
"It's just a minor sprain, nothing serious," Rose said. "Hopefully I'll be fine in a couple days. It's nothing big at all."
The injury apparently occurred Rose exploded through the Cleveland defense for a fast-break bucket that put the Bulls ahead 83-76 with 3:39 remaining. The Cavaliers called a timeout, and after one defensive possession, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau called time and replaced Rose with Kirk Hinrich.
"They said I wasn't moving good enough to be out on the court, so they subbed me out," Rose said. "Stuff happens. I just have to play through it and get back healthy. I don't know if it was while I was running down the court or right when I took off (for the fast-break basket). I don't know. I was too caught up in the play."
The Bulls (3-3) placed six players in double figures. Joining Rose were forward Carlos Boozer with 17 points, forward Mike Dunleavy with 15, forward Luol Deng with 12, guard Jimmy Butler with 11 and center Joakim Noah with 10.
Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving, matching up against Rose for the first time in their NBA careers, scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. Forward Tristan Thompson added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are 0-5 on the road this season, 3-5 overall.
Irving is in his third professional season, but because of injuries to both players, they never previously played in the same game.
Irving was quiet in the first half. He scored his only two points on free throws with 1:36 left in the second quarter. Irving had no assists, no steals and went 0-for-5 from the field before halftime.
"You can never quite stop a guy like Irving," Thibodeau said. "I thought Derrick did his job, and the rest of the team provided the necessary help."
Chicago opened its biggest lead (to that point) at 53-40 on a Boozer jumper with 8:08 left in the third quarter. The Cavaliers began chipping away and closed within 64-60 by the end of the quarter on a layup by center Tyler Zeller.
Early in the fourth, Irving drained a 3-pointer to bring Cleveland within 66-65, and the battle was on. During the next four minutes, however, the Cavs could manage just two free throws, from guard Jarrett Jack. The Bulls went ahead 73-67 when Dunleavy pump-faked his way into a foul from guard Dion Waiters and knocked down all three free throws.
Cleveland was back within 78-75 after an Irving jumper before Dunleavy buried a 3-pointer to put the Bulls back up by six with 4:34 left. That basket ignited the 13-2 run that sent the Bulls ahead 91-77 on Deng's fast-break dunk with 1:07 remaining.
"When we hit adversity tonight, we didn't handle it well," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "They took us out of what we wanted to do. Tonight we were mentally not tough and physically didn't handle their pressure."
NOTES: Cleveland coach Mike Brown made a last-minute change to the starting lineup, placing Andrew Bynum at center in place of Anderson Varejao. It was Bynum's first start since the 2011-12 season, when he started all 60 games he played for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum didn't play at all last season after being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. The lineup decision produced positive results, as Bynum finished with 11 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. ... There was plenty of Duke representation at the United Center. There were four former Blue Devils on the court: Cleveland G Kyrie Irving and Chicago F Carlos Boozer, F Luol Deng and F Mike Dunleavy. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the current Blue Devils watched from the seats. Duke plays Kansas at the United Center on Tuesday. ... The last time the Bulls and Cavs met at the United Center, Cleveland snapped an 11-game losing streak in the series on Feb. 26.