Not known as a team with a defensive pedigree, the Dallas Mavericks certainly brought a defensive mindset to the United Center on Friday night against the Chicago Bulls.
Especially in the second half.
The Mavericks limited the Bulls to just 36 percent shooting and scratched out an 83-77 victory before a sellout crowd of 22,056.
It’s the fewest points the Mavericks have allowed this season, and it’s a formula they would like to repeat when they end this road trip Sunday in San Antonio.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Mavericks, who are 1-1 on this three-game road trip as they reached the midway point of the season with a 23-18 record.
This is the first time the Mavericks have won this season when they have scored fewer than 90 points.
The Mavericks held the Bulls (23-13) to 2-of-19 shooting from 3-point range, and to only 31 points in the second half after being outscored in the first half 46-36.
I blacked out. I can’t remember a thing what happened there. He’s so good at floaters, I’m not sure how I got to it.
Dirk Nowitzki on his game-changing defensive play against Derrick Rose
“We don’t want to overrate it,” said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 21 points. “They were on the fourth game in five nights. We went through it earlier in the year and that’s tough. You don’t really have your legs the way you want to. But yeah, we competed.”
Nowitzki played a major role and not just on the offensive end of the floor.
With the Mavs clinging to a 73-72 lead, Nowitzki stepped up and blocked a 6-foot jumper by Derrick Rose with 3:32 remaining in the game. It was one of the Mavericks’ signature defensive plays in the game, and it led to a 3-pointer by Deron Williams that gave Dallas a 76-72 lead and some much-needed breathing room.
Asked to recall his game-changing defensive play against Rose, Nowitzki sheepishly said: “I blacked out. I can’t remember a thing what happened there. He’s so good at floaters, I’m not sure how I got to it.
“I thought he was going to keep going and try to get around me and even get to the basket — I thought he could have. But he pulled up for a floater and I was lucky enough to get a hand on it.”
The second half was terrific. Our energy on defense was much better than the first half.
Coach Rick Carlisle
A 3-pointer by Nowitzki extended the Mavs’ lead to 79-72, as Dallas rebounded from a poor start, which saw them fall behind 13-3 in the first five minutes.
The Mavericks in general, and Wesley Matthews in particularly, did a bang-up job defending Jimmy Butler. In Thursday’s overtime win in Philadelphia, Butler scored a career-high 53 points and attempted 25 free throws.
In Friday’s game, Butler was scoreless in the first half and finished with a season-low four points and no free-throw attempts while shooting only 2-of-11 from the field.
“That was a team thing,” Matthews said of the defense performed against Butler. “Obviously he’s the key to their team — he had 53 points [Thursday] night — so it was a team win. We had to do the job and try to make stuff difficult. But our biggest thing and the biggest goal for us was to rebound, and we did a good job gang-rebounding tonight.”
The Mavericks also had 18 points and six assists from Williams as they swept the Bulls this season 2-0.
“The second half was terrific,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our energy on defense was much better than the first half.
“I thought our problems putting the ball in the basket de-energized us a little in the first half and at halftime we just were saying, ‘Hey, play to exhaustion, we’ve got defense in front of us, let’s get some traction and get some stops and see if we can claw back in this thing.’ ”
For the Mavs, that formula worked to perfection against the Bulls.
Mavericks at Spurs
6 p.m. Sunday, FSSW