Derrick Rose scored 22 points and hit a short go-ahead jumper with 4.8 seconds to play, and the Chicago Bulls rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final four minutes for an 88-87 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Luol Deng scored 21 points and blocked Kobe Bryant's short shot right before the buzzer as the Bulls hung on for a thrilling finish to both clubs' first Christmas meeting.
Bryant scored 28 points and committed eight turnovers while playing with a torn wrist ligament for the Lakers, who nearly shook off their tumultuous preseason for a surprising win. Instead, Los Angeles was outscored 17-5 in the final 3:36.
Deng scored nine points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, including a three-point play and two free throws in the final 45 seconds as Chicago snapped a five-game road losing streak against the Lakers.
Carlos Boozer had 15 points for the Bulls, who have designs on a championship run after leading the NBA with 62 regular-season victories last season. Chicago struggled mightily against Brown's new defensive schemes for the Lakers in the second half, managing just 25 percent shooting (12 for 48) — but Rose and Deng bailed out the Bulls.
Bryant couldn't finish strong in his NBA-record 14th Christmas Day appearance for the Lakers, who had an 11-point lead with 3:45 to play before Chicago pulled within 87-86 on Deng's free throws with 20.4 seconds left.
Bryant wore a compression sleeve on his right arm while playing without a brace on his right wrist after getting hurt last week. He appeared to have trouble handling the ball, but displayed a fairly smooth jump shot and his usual superb footwork.
Pau Gasol added 14 points for the Lakers, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter while committing four fouls. Los Angeles also played without suspended center Andrew Bynum and departed sixth man Lamar Odom in the debut of coach Mike Brown, who replaced 11-time champion Phil Jackson.
Chicago finally awoke after Los Angeles pushed its fourth-quarter lead to 82-71 with 3:45 to play. The Bulls' 10-3 run was abetted by four straight missed free throws by the Lakers before Bryant hit a short fadeaway with 54 seconds left. Deng's three-point play trimmed the lead to 87-84, and Bryant fouled Deng after missing his own shot on the Lakers' possession.
Rose opened his first season as the reigning MVP by taking just five shots in the first half before taking charge late. The youngest MVP in league history also got a five-year, $94 million contract extension four days ago.
The Lakers' 13th straight Christmas appearance was the second straight for the Bulls, who returned to the holiday slate last season for the first time since the last of Michael Jordan's six championship campaigns in 1997.
While the Bulls remained cohesive and consistent in the offseason, nobody knows what to expect from the 16-time champion Lakers after their tumultuous offseason.
Brown said he only installed about a third of his defense-based system during the truncated training camp, and he had to make further changes when the club abruptly traded Odom to Dallas no players in return after failing to acquire Chris Paul from New Orleans.
The Staples Center crowd murmured quizzically when Los Angeles announced a starting lineup including second-year pro Devin Ebanks and newcomer Josh McRoberts, who's filling in while Bynum sits out four games for bad behavior in the Mavericks' Game 4 sweep of the Lakers in the second round last spring.
Both teams gave away small leads in the first half, but Rose's 3-pointer kick-started a 9-2 run in the final 1:07, and he put the Bulls up 56-47 at halftime with assists on Deng's 3-pointer and three-point play in the final seconds.
Los Angeles began the second half with an 18-7 run, clicking on both ends while claiming a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.