Whatever the Bulls gained by two straight wins over the Cavaliers and Nets, most of it likely was lost in a disappointing 105-83 loss to the Mavericks Saturday night at the United Center.
The Bulls committed 18 turnovers and allowed the Mavericks to shoot better than 52 percent in the loss. Monta Ellis led the way for the Mavericks with 22 points, while Joakim Noah’s 20 points and 10 rebounds paced the Bulls in defeat.
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In the early going it appeared as though the Bulls defense had come to play, as the Mavericks made just three of their first 13 shots, including three misses from Dirk Nowitzki (18 points, five assists) to open the contest. Noah, playing through a sore hip, provided much of the defensive work, tallying five rebounds to go with six points in the period while guarding Nowitzki on the perimeter. Five Bulls turnovers early in the quarter allowed the visitors to stay close in what would be a foreshadow for the rest of the half.
In an attempt to inject some life into the offense, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle substituted in Vince Carter (18 points; three 3-pointers), who hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of a 15-2 Mavericks run to close the quarter. Carter, Ellis and reserve center Dejuan Blair (four points, three rebounds) scored all 15 points on the run, and as a team the Mavericks turned seven Bulls turnovers into seven points to take a 30-19 lead.
The run – and the Bulls turnovers -- extended into the second quarter without Noah on the floor. The Mavericks scored nine of the first 11 points to take a 39-21 lead just two minutes in to the frame. Tom Thibodeau brought back Noah, who scored his fourth bucket on the first possession but a Jae Crowder (nine points, two rebounds) four-point play – the Mavs’ second such play of the night – extended the lead to 20, 43-23.
A quick 5-0 run by DJ Augustin (11 points, three assists, three steals) via a steal/layup and 3-pointer brought the Bulls back within shouting distance, but a Carter 3-pointer and Ellis jumper midway through the half extended the lead to 23. The Mavericks took a 61-34 lead into the half behind 49 percent shooting, seven 3-pointers and 15 points off 13 Bulls turnovers. In all, they closed the half on a 46-17 run following a 17-17 tie in the first quarter.
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The Bulls were called for 13 fouls in the half, compared to just six for the Mavericks, and early in the second quarter Tom Thibodeau was whistled for a technical foul for arguing a Kirk Hinrich (five points, three assists) personal foul. Both Mike Dunleavy (six points, four assists) and Taj Gibson (13 points, five rebounds) had three fouls in the first half, while Noah led the Bulls with 10 points.
Tom Thibodeau’s group improved some on offense in the third quarter, but the Mavericks’ hot shooting persisted. The Bulls didn’t reach the 50-point mark until 3:01 left in the third quarter on an Augustin free throw. By then the Mavericks had opened up a 30-point lead thanks to 69 percent shooting as a team in the quarter. The Bulls were able to turn six Dallas turnovers into seven points, but it came far too late to make a difference in the outcome.
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The Bulls opened the final quarter on a 16-0 run to cut the lead down to 14 inside seven minutes, capped off by an incredible circus shot by Noah for a three-point play. But Carter, as he had been all night, stopped the run with a layup that began a quick 6-2 run to ice the game away.