CHICAGO -- The night started as if the Dallas Mavericks were going to get blown completely out of the Windy City on Saturday.
The Mavs scored a mere eight points in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls as they looked as if they had left their offensive game back in the Metroplex. The tide did turn a bit after that, but the Bulls were too strong down the stretch and eventually pulled away for a 93-83 triumph at the United Center.
The loss dropped the Mavs (36-29) to seventh place in the Western Conference standings behind the Denver Nuggets (35-28), who moved percentage points ahead of Dallas after they defeated the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. Denver's winning percentage is .556 percent to .554 for the Mavs.
The Mavs don't play again until Thursday, when they finish the regular season at Atlanta. By then, the Mavs may be locked into playing either San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers -- the four teams in the mix for the top four seeds in the Western Conference -- or the outcome of their game against the Hawks could determine their first-round playoff opponent.
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Those eight points the Mavs scored in the first period against the Bulls were a franchise low for the fewest ever scored in a first quarter. In fact, the Mavs were so anemic that they had as many turnovers (four) as field goals -- they were 4 of 19 -- in the first quarter.
"They are a tough team to get shots against," coach Rick Carlisle said of the Bulls. "They're tough to get the ball in the basket against. However, that didn't deter our enthusiasm. We got it going in the second quarter, we even got a lead late in the third or fourth quarter."
After looking like the defending NBA champs and scoring 30 points in the second quarter, the Mavs only trailed 44-38 at intermission. With 2:58 left in the third period, the Mavs took their only lead of the night at 56-55 after Delonte West made a jumper.
But Luol Deng scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the fourth period and Kyle Korver came off the bench to score eight of his 11 points in the final period and the Mavs didn't have enough to counter.
To make the game more difficult, the Mavericks were without Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, who were given the day off by Carlisle.
"I like the way we battled back from that adversity," Carlisle said. "We knew with Kidd and Terry out, others would have to step up."
Carlisle also liked the way guard Rodrigue Beaubois battled back from adversity. Beaubois was lying on the floor in obvious pain after dislocating his left ring finger with 7:32 left in the first half when his finger became caught in Ronnie Brewer's jersey.
Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 17 points, said: "I thought we were going to have to hold him down he was yelling so loud."
After going to the locker room to have his finger examined, Beaubois was back on the floor with 3:20 remaining in the second period and the finger taped. He wound up scoring 16 points and collecting six rebounds.
"Sometimes you feel like you can play and sometimes you can't," Beaubois said. "I felt like I could play and that's why I came back on the floor.
"The playoffs are coming and I want to do my best to help this team. When they want me to play, I just want to do my best to help the team win."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760