This was a pretty good, if frustrating, game. The Mavericks did a lot of quality things, but were just inconsistent at the worst possible moments. The Bulls, meanwhile, rained fire from 3 for a half and overcame some really sloppy basketball to stay ahead of Dallas for basically the entirety of the game. Dallas tied the game twice in the third quarter, but that would be as close as they would get. Ultimately, the Bulls did just enough to stay ahead, and the Mavs could never do quite enough to bridge the gap.
To start the game, Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons were hot. Monta Ellis was NOT. In the first quarter, Dirk hit his first 3 shots, all very Dirk-like mid-range jumpers. Parsons hit 3-of-4 in the quarter, all of them aggressive drives to the basket (and two of them were just really pretty reverse layups). Have I mentioned that I love aggressive Chandler Parsons? Meanwhile Monta couldn't hit anything, He missed five shots until he finally hit a runner with about a minute and a half left in the quarter.
On the other end, Derrick Rose came out on fire. It was both impressive and annoying the ridiculous 3s that he was hitting early. At one point the score was Mavs 15, Rose 13. He was absolutely feeling it. Sometimes you forget just how dangerous a player Rose is when healthy and he just abused Monta tonight.
Once the Bulls got up by about nine points, the game took on a fairly back-and-forth feel, and the Mavs couldn't close the gap for most of the first half. Nevertheless, the Mavs big men had some quietly solid play to keep the Mavs in this.
At one point Monta threw a lob to Tyson that was a bit too far from the basket, and the Bulls played it perfectly. But Tyson calmly caught the ball as if it was always intended to be a pass, and then slammed it down hard when all the Bulls jumped past him. Later he tipped a missed 3 straight back to Devin Harris, who caught it and immediately shot another 3 that caught nothing but net. Throw in the Chandler-to-Chandler oop and the emphatic block of Pau late in the 2nd, and Tyson had a fun half.
Dwight Powell also continued showing why Carlisle is giving him nearly all of the minutes behind Tyson and Dirk. He played really solid defense on both Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson and had a flashy play on offense as well. Leading the fast break, Rondo just left a pass in the middle of the paint for Powell, who was streaking towards the basket. Dwight grabbed it with ease and drew the foul on his way to the basket, then calmly knocked down both free throws. He would end up getting pushed around a bit in the second, but I still really like what the rookie is doing.
Unfortunately, the Mavs just couldn't guard against the Bulls perimeter ball movement, and the Bulls refused to miss any 3-pointers. Chicago shot SEVENTY PERCENT from three in the first half, and that is after they cooled off a bit. If not for some sparkplug action by JJ Barea and a bunch of Bulls turnovers, halftime would've looked grim.
But JJ was having none of it. He had several plays were he just dribbled around screen after screen until either he came open or a teammate did. He hit a three off several consecutive Dirk screens that was pretty great, and later dribbled around to find Chandler Parsons again streaking towards the basket for the foul. Shortly thereafter, JJ threw up a cool little over-the-shoulder layup to get 2 points off the fast break. On the next possession, he basically just ignored Derrick Rose and drove it to the basket for an easy layup. The Mavs fed off of JJ's energy and went on a run to close the half, taking advantage of 13 Bulls turnovers to stay in the game.
Despite trailing by double digit points for much of the first half, the Mavs went into the locker room only down by 3. Unsurprisingly, Parsons led the way with 13 points. Dirk had 10, and JJ had 9.
The Mavs managed to keep things just close enough in the third that it was agonizing every time the Bulls would push their lead back to eight or so. First Rondo tied it with a fantastic follow-up on a blown Monta reverse, seemingly coming out of nowhere to just one touch the ball back up into the basket. Then the Bulls hit a three (you'll sense that this was a theme in this game), and Dirk tied the game up again with an assisted three of his own.
After that, the Bulls held onto a decent lead for most of the quarter. Despite pretty good defense, the Mavs couldn't seem to get together enough offense when they needed it, and the Bulls continued knocking down open threes. It started to get away from the Mavs a little bit towards teh end of the third, but a couple of big plays really lifted the team's spirit. First Devin was fouled in the act of shooting a three, and his four-point play narrowed the lead from nine to five. Then Dirk ended the half with an incredible pump fake that made Pau Gasol look absolutely silly as Dirk then knocked down a three to end the quarter.
As had been the theme of the night, Mavs continued to do just enough to stay within single digits, but not enough to narrow the lead or take it. It felt like with every defensive stop, the Mavs couldn't find a way to get any points, and when they did get a score, they couldn't back it up with a defensive stop.
Then with about five left, Dallas just made some inexcusable mistakes. The offense kept settling for early jumpers (or Rondo jumpers -- either way, not smart shots). Tyson gave away a rebound, and then Monta fouled Brooks on a three-pointer. They kept scrapping after this, but the damage was done. Chicago continued turning it over, and Dirk even played some quality defense down the stretch, but the Bulls did what they had to do to finish it.
Despite everything, it really felt like the Mavs might still have a chance. Then Parsons got overzealous and committed a stupid (but honestly, completely understandable) foul on Taj Gibson with 33 seconds left. Taj hit 1 of 2 free throws to push the lead back to 5. BUT THEN MONTA WAS HIT ON A PULL-UP JUMPER AND DRILLED THE FREE THROW TO NARROW IT TO TWO.... but that was it. Mavs got a stop on the defensive end as the final seconds counted down, but gave up the offensive rebound. Pau Gasol hit both free throws with 0.1 seconds left. Fin.
Mavs lose 102-98. Tough loss, but they'll try again next time. Something curious to speculate about until Sunday: Rondo was on the bench in the final minutes of the game. It will be interesting to see if Rick Carlisle will explain this decision. (ed. note: Oh boy did he not, despite our best efforts.)