Rick Carlisle knows that whoever the Bulls play with tonight at the United Center -- Luol Deng is still listed as a game-time decision -- it'll be a scrappy fight against one of the league's best defensive units.
The Mavericks enter tonight's matchup ranked 24th in defensive efficiency, 21st in field goal percentage defense and 26th in rebound differential (-3.6), numbers that Carlisle knows must change against a Bulls team that fights for every possession.
"Whoever (the Bulls) put out there is going to really compete and be really physical and really rebound," Carlisle said. "This game comes down to the team that competes the best, regardless of build or personnel, I'm convinced of that. So we've got to be mindful of that. We've just got to be ready to play."
The Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, have been one of the league's most efficient groups but have given up 99 or more points 18 times. That defense has let them down so much that Dallas has actually lost eight times this season when scoring 100 points. Their nearly 103 points allowed per game is fourth worst in the NBA, though they may catch a break playing a Bulls team potentially without Luol Deng.
"I think we need to keep concentrating more on defense, because that's the area that's our biggest challenge," he said. "And defense and rebounding are going to be huge factors in the game. And when you defend and rebound, your offense usually is going to flow better."
CARLISLE UNSURE WHAT TO MAKE OF INJURIES
The injury bug seems to have inflicted more teams this season than in the past, with superstars Derrick Rose (knee), Al Horford (pectoral), Russell Westbrook (knee), Kobe Bryant (Achilles, knee) and Bradley Beal (leg) just some of the big names to have suffered injuries in the early going.
And though the Mavericks have been one of the healthier teams in the league, Carlisle said he isn't sure if there is actually an increase in hurt players or if the big-name players suffering them has brought light to it this season, specifically.
"These things tend to go in cycles. Sometimes there's not a good explanation for it, but the thing, we are constantly talking to our guys about health," he said. "We're always trying to avoid injury but sometimes it's just chance, but I don't have a great answer. I do know when some of the more name-type guys get hurt, it brings more attention to it. So that may be part of it, too.
"I know the league is very mindful of frequency of games, but it's an ongoing thing about trying to reduce back-to-backs and things like that, but sometimes even that scientific approach can't solve a guy getting hurt at a certain time."
Carlisle, a member of the NBA's competition committee, noted that back-to-back games may be a cause of such injuries, but that ridding teams' schedules of such stretches isn't really a plausible solution.
"Well it's just not going to happen because of a finite number of days to get in the games," he said, "but I do know that it's always - the health of players is always high on the list of things of priorities, so that's kind of where we are."
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said he feels as though injuries have been up this season, saying: "I don't know what the numbers say, but it does seem like a lot."