Coming off an exhilarating loss against the Golden State Warriors, the Mavs looked to get back on track against a Chicago Bulls team that had been playing much better basketball compared to the start of the season.
The Mavericks might as well have been playing the Warriors again in the first quarter as the Bulls raced out of the gates to an eight-for-eight shooting start. For the Mavericks, Harrison Barnes almost singlehandedly kept the team within striking distance scoring 10 points in the quarter. After one quarter the Bulls led 34-28.
Whether it was the Mavs defense, or the Bulls’ hot shooting regressing to the mean, Dallas was able to play much better in the second frame. With J.J. Barea leading the charge, the second unit was able to keep the game within a few possessions, though they never could quite take the lead. Dennis Smith Jr. also showed some aggression getting into the paint and knocking down two jumpers while absorbing contact after getting the defender in the air. Unfortunately, the first half saw Smith Jr. go 1-5 from the free throw line and he was a minus-13 through two quarters. The Bulls got an outstanding first half from their promising rookie, Lauri Markkanen, as he scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds to propel the Bulls to a 57-53 lead.
The Mavs started the third quarter on a 10-2 run to take their first lead of the game since the opening quarter. Wesley Matthews was instrumental in the hot third-quarter start canning a couple of threes and hitting a floater in the lane. The Mavs were able to stretch their lead to as big as eight points as a combination of hot shooting and sloppy Bulls’ play pushed Dallas through a strong third quarter. They outscored the Bulls by 13 points in the frame and put up 35 total points to take an 88-80 lead into the fourth.
With the Mavericks’ explosive third quarter behind them, the Bulls jumped out to a 12-1 run to furiously retake the lead before Yogi Ferrell drained a three to tie the game at 92. The teams went back and forth with the Bulls hanging on to a slim lead until Dirk canned a three on back to back possessions to give Dallas a two point lead. But the Bulls stormed back on a 16-4 run to take a ten point lead with 1:08 to play. Aside from a few Barnes’ buckets, the Mavs offense fell flat, turning the ball over and missing shots.
Down 116-107, Dwight Powell connected on an and-one to put the Mavs behind by six. On the ensuing throw in, the Mavs almost forced a turnover, but Powell was called for a questionable reach in. It would have given Dallas the chance to make it a one possession game, but instead were forced to foul and score quickly. The Mavs played the foul game, but the Bulls made their free throws. However, after forcing a turnover and scoring immediately, Dallas was able to trim the lead to one after a Smith Jr. three pointer with about three seconds left. The Bulls made both free throws after a Maverick foul, and with no timeouts the Mavs were in a disadvantageous position not being able to advance the ball. But Smith Jr. threw a three-quarters court pass to Maxi Kleber at the top of the key (very Christain Laettner-esque) who then shoveled the ball to Ferrell who had a good look to tie it. The ball fell just short, and the Mavericks lost another nail biter.
The Mavericks fall to 13-27, while the Bulls move on to 14-25. Dallas has dropped two in a row and looks to get back into the win column Sunday night against the Knicks.
Wesley Matthews continues his tear
Matthews’ enigmatic and inconsistent play has been the subject of much criticism since he arrived in Dallas. But he might be playing the best basketball of his Maverick tenure the past few games. Prior to this game, Matthews was shooting 54 percent from the field, including 48 percent from deep. He was also scoring 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing four assists per night in the last four games. Tonight was not much different as he pumped in 24 points, snatched four rebounds and passed out three assists. He shot 50 percent from the field and 56 percent from three. The third quarter alone saw Matthews put up 12 points, and tonight was his second consecutive game of 20-plus points. Matthews hasn’t turned a corner, and he won’t magically become a consistent player. But he’s shooting the ball well and by no means is shooting Dallas out of games. He’s going to keep chucking it no matter if he’s feeling it or not, but for the past few games, he’s been feeling it.
Another vintage Dirk performance wasted
Bless Dirk’s soul. Coming into tonight, Dirk was averaging 15 points and six rebounds on 50/40/80 shooting splits in his past nine games. He’s on a run of efficient basketball at 39-years-old, and it’s one of the only aspects to enjoy in another down season. Tonight, Dirk was almost automatic going 8-11 from the field and making all three of his three point attempts. He scored 16 points and was a catalyst to the Mavericks strong third quarter.
It’s not a stretch to say Dirk is still the most impactful Mavericks. His floor gravity is still strong, and he opens up so much space for his teammates. So, it’s a bit frustrating seeing the Mavericks squander away these games where Dirk puts in vintage performances in limited minutes.
Kris Dunn has a career night
Dunn led the Bulls in scoring with 32 points. He made four-of-five three point attempts and shot 12-17 from the field. He also contributed nine assists and four rebounds as he greatly outplayed his Maverick counterparts. As the Mavericks were trying to make one final push in the fourth quarter, Dunn continued to shut the door. He made two huge free throws to put the Bulls up by three with 2.6 seconds left, which was a fitting ending to his performance tonight. In the past eight games, the Mavs are giving up 27 points per game to the opposing team’s starting point guard. Barea, Ferrell, Smith Jr., Devin Harris and whoever else Rick Carlisle throws out there are having a hard time slowing anybody down.