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3 things to watch for when the Dallas Mavericks host the Chicago Bulls

Can the Mavs continue their undefeated run to start the season?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Dallas Mavericks
Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) makes a move on Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) during the second quarter at American Airlines Center.
Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Well, well, well, look at what we have here. The Dallas Mavericks are one of just three undefeated teams in the NBA, along with the Boston Celtics (3-0) and the Denver Nuggets (4-0), after three games. And on the strength of Luka Dončić alone, they’ll be favored to win their next one and push it to 4-0 when they host the Chicago Bulls (2-2) on Wednesday.

The Mavs tossed aside the ailing Memphis Grizzlies their last time out on Monday, 125-110, behind 35 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists from Dončić. Without the services of backcourt running mate Kyrie Irving, who sat out with a sprained left foot, the Mavericks got a lift from a surprisingly effective night from Derrick Jones Jr., who at one point in the second quarter went on a 10-0 run by himself and finished the night with 22 points.

The Bulls enter the contest on the heels of Monday’s 112-105 win over the Indiana Pacers. The trio of Nikola Vucevic (24 points, 17 rebounds), Zach LaVine (23 points, 5 rebounds) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points, 4 assists) led the Bulls’ second-half comeback in Indianapolis and should be the primary focus of the Dallas defense on Wednesday.

Here are three things to look out for in Wednesday’s game between the Mavs and the Bulls:

Will Kyrie Irving play?

According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Irving is questionable for the game against the Bulls.

The sprained left foot that kept Irving out of Monday’s game at Memphis is an early-season stumbling block to developing the chemistry between Dončić and Irving we got glances of down the stretch in the season-opening win against the Spurs.

It was not, however, a stumbling block to getting a win in Memphis, as the Mavs took over the lead late in the first half, wrestled control of the game away from the Grizzlies in the third and pulled away in the fourth for a 15-point win without the team’s second-leading scorer.

The sprain apparently happened during the win over the Brooklyn Nets. Irving was averaging 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists while shooting 39.0 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from 3-point territory in the first two games of the season.

He was limited in the preseason by a groin injury, only appearing in two of the team’s preseason games, so it may take some time for him to get going this year.

Who will step up if he doesn’t?

On Monday, of course, it was Jones Jr. who gave the Mavs a big boost in Irving’s absence. Jones has been a fixture in the starting lineup through the first three games of the season, but didn’t get extended minutes in either of the first two.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies
Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Green (8) drives to the basket as Memphis Grizzlies forward Ziaire Williams (8) defends during the first half at FedExForum.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

It was Josh Green who slid into Irving’s spot in the starting lineup against the Grizzlies, and if Irving is out again, it might be Green’s turn to step up into more of an impact role against Chicago.

Another candidate for an expanded role might be Jaden Hardy, who saw his first 10 minutes of playing time Monday at Memphis. He scored six points in his 2023-24 debut and would benefit from more minutes wherever he can find them.

Can Chicago keep up?

After scoring 125 more points against Memphis, the Mavericks are now first in the NBA’s offensive rating statistic, and they’re also tied for first at this early juncture in the season in scoring (125.3 points per game) and tied for second in 3-point shooting percentage (40.8 percent).

Perhaps what Mavs fans have appreciated more than those small samples is the improved pace the team is playing with through three games. Dallas is also 6th in the NBA in pace, after playing at the third-slowest pace in the league a year ago.

Meanwhile, Chicago is scoring just 105.5 points per game through their first three games and just 29.4% on 3-pointers. They are 25th in the NBA in pace so far, for what it’s worth.

How to watch

The game tips off Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. CDT on Bally Sports.