Just when the Dallas Mavericks needed to show how tough they’ve become lately, they crawled into a corner and disappeared against the physical Chicago Bulls.
Looking physically challenged during key stretches of Friday’s game, the Mavericks blew a 16-point lead and got outmuscled by the Bulls in a 100-91 loss at American Airlines Center. The loss snapped the Mavericks’ four-game winning streak and left them going into Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs boasting a 36-24 record.
It also marked the sixth time this season the Mavericks have lost a game that they led at one point by 16 or more points. That’s not to mention the second-half knockout punch they got from the Bulls, who avenged a 22-point home loss to the Mavs on Dec. 28.
“Some nights teams miss shots and when that happens you’ve got to hang in with grit and guts and defense and rebounding,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “The weird thing about it is we were in front most of the first half, and we let them climb back into it with grit and guts and rebounding.
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“And down the stretch I thought we had some good opportunities, and we made some mistakes too, and again second chances were costly. We couldn’t overcome the rebounding margin, and we just didn’t make shots when we needed to.”
The Bulls took their first lead with 2:48 remaining in the third period. Then after the Mavericks finally propped back up, they couldn’t locate the basket as the Bulls ended the game on a 16-6 run.
“They were able to make it more of a half-court game and more physical,” said Shawn Marion, who had 11 points and four turnovers. “We just weren’t able to hit open shots in that second half.
“Everything we wanted went in [during] that first half, and in the second half we started missing some shots and they started hitting some shots. For the most part it was kind of a grudge match out there — they were able to get a little space and gap and they came up with the “W.”
After Monta Ellis turned a half-court steal into a breakaway dunk and an 85-84 lead for the Mavericks with 5:07 left, Dallas went just 2-of-13 from the field and scored only six points the rest of the way.
“We missed a lot of layups, a lot of shots in the middle, at the free-throw line,” said Ellis, who scored 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting. “Missed a lot of wide-open ones — just weren’t going down for us. We knew they were going to continue to play; we knew they were going to play hard. We just couldn’t hit shots down the stretch.”
Mike Dunleavy’s 3-pointer gave the Bulls the lead for good at 87-85. But Chicago didn’t stop there. Taj Gibson negotiated a dunk off a feed from Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler dropped in a 5-footer, Kirk Hinrich popped in a 17-footer, and Butler added a free throw for a 94-85 lead with 1:23 to go.
“I thought in the second half there were a lot of opportunities for good shots that we just missed,” Carlisle said. “But more than that they were a hot 3-point-shooting team coming into the game — we knew that — and we turned them loose for nine 3s.”
The Mavericks built a 32-20 lead after the first quarter. A pair of 3-pointers by Vince Carter (15 points) and suddenly the Dallas was running all over the Bulls while nursing a 38-22 lead early in the second.
But Gibson got 10 of his 20 points in the second quarter and Butler added seven more as the Bulls pulled close at 54-51 by intermission.
Then when the paced slowed to the Bulls’ liking in the second half, the Mavericks couldn’t stay toe-to-toe with Chicago, which outrebounded Dallas 46-37 and held the Mavericks to 15 points in the fourth quarter.