By: Michael Florek
DALLAS — The Bulls didn’t earn a lead in their game against the Mavericks on Friday until there were less than three minutes left in the third quarter. It lasted one possession. Their second and third leads met similar fates.
The fourth, though, that one stuck.
The Bulls trailed by one with just under five minutes to play in the fourth when Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout. On the ensuing possession, Bulls guard D.J. Augustin drew the defense and dished out a pass to Mike Dunleavy, who was wide open on the right wing. Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer, which ignited a 10-0 run as the Bulls recovered its slow start to beat the Mavericks, 100-91. It’s the Bulls’ eighth win in their last nine games.
In the five minutes of the run, the Mavericks missed nine shots, with the Bulls contributing two blocks.
“This game is all about you deal with a little adversity,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “We dealt with a little adversity early on in the game, stuck with it and we got one of the biggest wins of the year for us.”
It didn’t look that way at the beginning. The game started out exactly the way Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t want it to. Before Friday’s game he recounted the two teams’ last meeting in December. The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead, and Chicago could never recover.
The Bulls let it happen again on Friday. This time, though, they found a run of their own.
The Mavericks unleashed a 12-0 run midway through the first quarter. The Bulls trailed by 14 at the end of the run, and 12 by the end of the first quarter. But Taj Gibson held the team close, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the first half.
Late in the second quarter, Dunleavy was the catalyst again, hitting a 3-pointer that started a 10-2 run and included 3-pointers from both Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler. The Bulls were 9 of 19 from beyond the arc in the game.
Chicago finally took its first lead in late in the third as an up-and-under move from Carlos Boozer gave the Bulls a 73-72 edge. Mavericks forward Shawn Marion negated it seconds later with a quick layup.
The two teams traded leads again, and then the Bulls jumped out to a six-point advantage thanks to two more 3-pointers. It eventually dropped to four, and then a 3-pointer from Mavericks guard Jose Calderon followed by a steal and easy dunk from Monta Ellis erased it completely.
That’s when Thibodeau called his timeout, setting up Dunleavy’s 3-pointer and the run that followed.
“We you get a team that’s willing to sacrifice for each other, to play for each other, I think you can build a mental toughness that’s necessary to succeed,” Thibodeau said. “I think there’s a commitment by each player to each other to not lot the group down.”