While there’s no such thing as a perfect basketball game, the Dallas Mavericks were nearly perfect Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls.
Focused and playing perhaps their best overall game of the season, the Mavs ran away from the Chicago Bulls 105-83 before a sellout crowd of 22,099 at the United Center.
In the opener of this three-game road trip, the Mavs (17-13) were aggressive and proficient while having a much easier time with the Bulls than anyone anticipated. By the time the clock struck zero, the Mavs walked off the court with their largest margin of victory of the season.
“We played well, there’s no doubt about it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The emphasis the last two days [in practice] was on defense and rebounding.
“When we defend and rebound like that we’re a formidable team. We’re just going to keep pushing in those two areas and keep getting better with that.”
The Mavs led 30-19 after the first quarter, 61-34 at the half and by as much as 32 points (86-54) late in the third quarter following a bucket by Vince Carter.
“We were locked in, but I think we were locked in from the jump,” said Carter, who scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting. “We didn’t have to play catch-up and I think that’s good for our team.
“We had to bring more energy and we had to do it from the beginning. We had to hit those guys first because they do a great job of trying to take teams out their game early in the first, and I think everybody was really into the game and locked in from the first guy to the last guy on the bench.”
The Mavs were only nursing a 30-21 lead 62 seconds into the second quarter. From there, the Mavs torched the Bulls, using a 29-9 run to mount a 59-30 lead with 1:33 to go before halftime after Dirk Nowitzki made a 20-foot jumper.
“The biggest thing is we can’t worry about the opponent,” said Monta Ellis, who scored a game-high 22 points. “One thing we’re doing well is worried about what we can do, and one thing we can do is if we play together, share the ball, play defense, rebound, we can play with any team in the NBA.”
The only time the Bulls threw a scare into the Mavs was in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. The Mavs turned the ball over four times, missed their first seven shots and went scoreless in the opening 5:43, helping the Bulls inch to within 86-72.
However, Carter scored the Mavs’ first points of the fourth period on a driving layup, Ellis made a jumper and Nowitzki followed with a 3-pointer and the Mavs were back up 95-76 with 4:17 remaining in the game.
“I don’t know if there’s any such thing as playing a perfect game in this league,” Carlisle said. “We knew they were going to hit us with physical play, aggression and eventually some shot-making.
“They did it and I thought our resolve was very good. There was no panic, everybody stayed the course, we kept focusing on stops and rebounds and we were able to bring it home.”
The Mavs outrebounded the Bulls 39-34, and shot 52.6 percent from the field and also made 13 of their 26 3-pointers. The 83 points the Bulls scored were the second fewest the Mavs have allowed all season. They held Charlotte to 82 points on Dec 3.
“It was a great win for us,” Carlisle said. “Tonight we showed that we can be solid overall and so now we’ve got to continue with it.
“Now we’ve got to move on to the next one, and we can’t have a letup.”