Game Notes: Mavs at Bulls
Derrick Rose leads the Bulls past the Mavs
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
The Chicago Bulls have lost a lot of tough games of late, mostly to teams that they by all accounts, they shouldn’t have had any trouble beating. But when it comes to playing the elite teams in the NBA, especially at home, they seem to elevate their play and meet the opponent’s challenge. Last night the challenge was trying to knock off the Dallas Mavericks without Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer who sat out once again with a sprained ankle.
The Mavs themselves have been struggling since their All-Star and leader, Dirk Nowitzki, went down with a sprained knee against the Oklahoma City Thunder back on January 6th. The team would go on to lose 6 straight games as a result, even with Dirk returning to the lineup in their last 2 losses on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Detroit Pistons. They finally snapped their losing streak on Wednesday night against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at home, but would have little time to celebrate as they had to immediately board a charter and fly to Chicago.
As has been the case all season, the Bulls would both play and win ugly as they defeated the Mavs 82-77, sweeping the season series.
The Bulls, in typical fashion, would get off to a slow start in the first quarter, primarily due to not being able to make shots, but also not taking care of the ball — their Achilles heel all season — as they committed 5 turnovers. Fortunately enough, Dallas wouldn’t fare much better as they too had a hard time making baskets and holding on to the ball as they registered 4 turnovers of their own, but still managed to go into the second quarter with a 20-19 advantage.
The second quarter would start off just as ugly as the first as both teams would go on long stretches without scoring. Dallas wouldn’t register their first field goal until almost 5 minutes had elapsed in the quarter and Chicago went through similar bouts of futility.
The Mavs would go into intermission not scoring a basket in the final 3 minutes of the quarter and the Bulls would have a quasi scoring explosion during the last 2 minutes as they scored 10 points which helped them outscore the visitors 25-15 and took them into halftime with a 9 point lead over Dallas, 44-35.
The third quarter would see the Dallas Mavericks gain momentum over Chicago outscoring them 25-12 but it was still a horrendous display of shooting by both teams, but moreso by Chicago who couldn’t seem to make a basket no matter how hard they tried. Going into the fourth quarter, the score was just 60-56, advantage Dallas.
In the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose would take over.
His aggressive play on offense, rebounding, and ability to get to the free throw line seemed to energize the Bulls, especially CJ Watson who has been finishing games of late in the backcourt with Rose. He made two huge back-to-back 3-pointers which gave Chicago momentum and Derrick hit what basically amounted to a game winner with a pull-up jumper over Jason Kidd with 55 seconds remaining in regulation.
A lot has been made of Derrick Rose’s legitimacy as an MVP candidate, and even though he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (9-28), he was the catalyst for Chicago scoring 26 points, dishing 9 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds and was the only scorer for Chicago in double figures. Tom Thibodeau even acknowledged in his post-game press conference that he couldn’t ever remember winning a game with only one player scoring in double figures.
“It was hard to score in this game,” said Thibodeau. “Derrick didn’t have a great shooting night, but his will in the second half just created scoring opportunities for us. He’s seen every kind of defense there is. So he’s figuring all that stuff out and then sometimes we’re just going to flatten out for him to create more space and just let him go.”
Jason Terry may have summed up the play of Rose perfectly with this comment:
“Derrick Rose is their team. I don’t care who else they have on that roster. He took 28 shots tonight. Anybody who takes 28 shots, it’s the Jordan rules.”
As ugly as the victory was offensively, as usual, the Bulls can always depend on their defensive play to win ball games as they are the number ranked team on that side of the ball in the NBA.
“It’s crazy we’re No. 1 [on defense],” said Luol Deng. “Because in this locker room, we still feel that we could get so much better. It just shows that when you commit to defense, how good you can be and that’s how we’re winning games. We have our offensive slumps here and there, but our defense is winning games.”
The Mavs on the other hand were less than pleased with the outcome of the game, especially Dirk Nowitki who went 6-16 from the field and who still doesn’t appear to be 100 percent yet.
“In November and December, we were winning these games. It’s a very disappointing loss, especially when they only have one player in double figures,” said Nowitzki.
But the aforementioned Terry took the loss in stride by saying, “It’s just a matter of time. We’ll be closing these games out. These are games that we’ve won time and time again… You could tell, we haven’t been in a lot of close games, so we’re a little rusty in that category.