You might remember the last time the Mavs faced the Bulls. It was a pretty day last March. I spent it at a bar with fellow MMB writer Doyle Rader watching one of the few really happy games of the Mavs' lost season, as they went on a 15-1 run to come back from down 12 and win that game.
But this is not March, this is tonight. Apparently the recipe for getting well is playing a team that is substantially worse than you are, because tonight was a different story from the last game, and here's how it went.
It started slow. Calderon had the first few points, but the first half of the quarter was relatively quiet with not much scoring from either team. Here's how unspectacularly the game started: Chicago had five turnovers in the first 6 minutes. Dallas had 8 points. Mavs would finish the quarter up 30-19 on a beautiful Vince Carter three from way beyond the arc, but honestly, how they got to 30 points I'm not sure. I guess because Monta had nine and Vince had seven. Dirk was held scoreless.
The second quarter saw the Mavs come alive. Mavs maintained their lead and Dirk would finally score on a beautiful trailing three and hit the free throw for the four point play. Defensively the Mavs had some great possessions, which was nice to see. Shane Larkin had a particularly pretty three point shot, even Jae Crowder would get into the action with a four point play to put the Mavs up by 20. And all of that only four minutes into the second! The lead would get up to 25 at one point on a pretty Monta crossover and another Vince three. Then up to 27. Then 29. The rout was on.
Basically, everything was clicking for the Mavs and nothing was working for Chicago. Mavs finished the quarter up 61-34.
The Mavs would hold on to their lead to start the third, Monta Ellis put on a little bit of a show, with a couple of fun shots. Dirk had another long three. The Mavs continued to be active on the boards. (What?) But a few Mavs turnovers started to haunt them, and a little Chicago found a little 7-0 run forced a timeout -- after which the Mavs promptly tightened things up and went on a 9-0 run of their own. They would take a 30 point lead into the fourth.
The Bulls weren't done yet, though. As the Mavs are wont to do, they relaxed a little on their 30 point lead, allowing an 18-0 Bulls run to start the fourth. Dirk would sit, with Carlisle hoping to rest him. Vince would finally end the scoring drought with 6:12 left in the game. Another Monta shot, followed by a Calderon shot of the pick and roll with Marion, and the Mavs would build their lead back up to a semi-comfortable 18. (I mean, semi-comfortable, because is any lead really comfortable with this team?) Dirk checked back in with 4:49 left, just in case, and immediately drained a three. A few more shots would seal a 105-83 victory.
- With the Bulls at far from full strength (though of course you never like to see injuries), the Mavs needed to capitalize, and they did. Every game matters, but if you can't win the "easy" games, well...they did, so we don't have to go there just yet.
- Speaking of positives, every single Mavs player had a positive +/- tonight.
- The "Vince Carter Benefits from Having Brandan Wright Around" experiment has yet to disappoint. With Wright out against the Spurs the other night, Vince didn't play his best, but tonight, with Wright available, his line was: 18 points; 6/9 (3/5 from three); four rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block. (For frame of reference, Monta led Mavs scoring with 22 and Dirk had 18.) The Mavs need Vince to produce. It would be nice if he could do it without Wright, but Wright just makes him better.
- The one thing that continues to be concerning is the Mavs' tendency to give up big leads. Fortunately tonight they had built enough of a lead so that it wasn't an issue, but they still let the Bulls go on an 18-0 run to start the fourth. In a lot of games that would have been enough to get a team back into it. I don't know how Carlisle plans to fix that, but in what was otherwise a nice win, it can't be overlooked as something that is STILL a problem.
- Perhaps part of that can be attributed to a lack of concentration/slacking off, because the Mavs only had four turnovers in the first half, to 12 in the second half. Sloppy will almost always give the other team a chance to capitalize, and probably will force you to play your starters when you might otherwise rest them. It seemed like at one point Carlisle would have liked to NOT put Dirk back in, but he seemed to be needed after that 18-0 Bulls run. C'est la vie, I guess.
- OH HEY REBOUNDING. The Mavs out-rebounded the Bulls tonight, 39-34. I don't read the box score for every game, but that seems different. They also shot FIFTY PERCENT from three, which is pretty much the opposite of the last couple games.
Enjoy the win and say happy things in the comments. See you on Monday against the Timberwolves!