LONDON, (Reuters) – Rookie James Johnson’s last second basket lifted the Chicago Bulls to a 102-101 pre-season win over the Utah Jazz in London and overshadowed British-born Luol Deng’s homecoming yesterday.
Johnson scored the game winner with 0.1 seconds left, giving the Bulls victory in front of a sellout crowd at London’s O2 arena.
“I’m so happy that he hit the shot, I wanted the London win,” Deng told reporters after a game which marked the first time the Britain team captain had played in front of his hometown crowd as a Chicago Bull.
“It was unbelievable looking in the stands, seeing some of the people who helped me play basketball watch me in a Bulls jersey play at home,” he said.
A stress fracture in his right shin forced Deng to miss the end of last season and this year’s European basketball championship.
“It was the right thing to do, to keep managing my minutes, because I just did come back from an injury that had me sitting out for a while,” he added, referring to his limited playing time.
Deng scored 18 points in just under 25 minutes, including 13 in the first two quarters to put the Bulls up 55-48 at halftime.
Johnson also scored 18 while forward Paul Millsap lead all Jazz players with 18 points.
The Bulls led through most of the game, but the Jazz managed to claw back in the second half.
Chicago dropped an opportunity to widen a late 2-point lead after Derrick Byars missed two free throws.
Utah’s Ronnie Price then hit two free throws with 25 seconds left, putting the Jazz up 101-100.
But in the end it was not enough as Johnson grabbed a crucial offensive rebound and made the last second shot.
“I told James to be aggressive. It’s your second exhibition as a rookie so go have fun,” said Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro. The Jazz will play Real Madrid on Thursday in the second of two games on NBA’s Europe Live 2009 tour.