Cleveland, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - After the Chicago Bulls blew one big lead, Jimmy Butler helped ensure they didn't surrender another.
Derrick Rose had 25 points and five assists, Butler added 20 points and six helpers and the Bulls held off the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-92 on Monday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
After blowing a 16-point lead in the first half, Chicago used a 15-0 run in the third quarter to build another healthy cushion.
Cleveland charged back and trimmed the deficit to two in the fourth quarter with 5:21 left. Butler, though, split a pair of free throws and nailed a 3- pointer before Pau Gasol's jumper gave the Bulls a 94-86 lead with 3:26 to go.
The Cavs never got closer than four the rest of the way. Butler scored seven of Chicago's last 11 points.
"You can never let your guard down," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They can score points in a hurry."
Game 2 is Wednesday in Cleveland.
Gasol netted 15 of his 21 points in the second half to go with 10 rebounds and Mike Dunleavy supplied 14 points and seven boards for third-seeded Chicago, which was 10-of-18 from beyond the arc.
The Bulls defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in six games to reach the semis.
Chicago received a minor scare late in the game when Rose began to grab his shoulder, but he never left the contest.
"It was a stinger and it went away within five to 10 minutes," he said.
The Cavs played their first game this postseason without starters Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. Love is out for the rest of the playoffs after having his shoulder yanked from his socket by the Boston Celtics' Kelly Olynyk in Game 4 of Cleveland's first-round series. Smith is suspended for the first two games after striking Boston's Jae Crowder in the face during Game 4.
"We have to adjust and try to be creative," Cleveland coach David Blatt said of their absences. "Our margin of error is going to be smaller ... This is going to be a series of adjustments by necessity."
Kyrie Irving posted 30 points and six assists, while Smith's replacement, Iman Shumpert, provided 22 points for the second-seeded Cavs, who swept the Celtics in the East quarterfinals.
"No excuses," Blatt said. "We just didn't start well enough and we didn't play well enough to win that game."
LeBron James tallied 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but was held to just 9-of-22 shooting by Butler and committed six of Cleveland's nine turnovers.
James had been 12-3 in his career against the Bulls in the postseason and 3-0 in playoff series overall coming in.
Chicago connected on five of its first six 3-pointers, with Dunleavy knocking down three of them as it raced out to a 21-7 start.
Dunleavy began 5-of-5 from the field and scored 13 points in an opening frame where the Bulls led 27-15.
"It's Mike moving without the ball, opening up the floor," Thibodeau said of Dunleavy. "He never stops moving."
A Kirk Hinrich triple staked the Bulls to a 33-17 spread early in the second before the Cavs used a 16-6 burst to get back in it. Irving, who poured in 14 points in the second, scored the final 10 points of the swing to get within 39-33.
An acrobatic layup from Irving and 3 from Mike Miller cut the margin to 45-42, but the Bulls extended it to 49-44 heading into the break.
Cleveland, which never led in the contest, tied it at 53-53 on an Irving driving layup.
Chicago, however, pulled away again with its 15-0 flurry.
"Just a great run on our end," Gasol said. "Got the stops and got the rebounds, we made plays."
Rose nailed a difficult leaning left wing trey at one point during the run, which was capped on a Gasol jumper for a 68-53 Bulls advantage midway through the frame.
The Bulls led 81-70 after three. Gasol scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the period.
The Bulls shot 50 percent (40-of-80) from the floor ... James came in averaging 27.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game in his playoff career against Chicago ... Cleveland went 3-1 against Chicago during the regular season ... The Cavs were just 7-of-26 from long distance.