The Dallas Mavericks improved to 4-0 to start the 2023-24 season, defeating the Chicago Bulls at home 114-105. Grant Williams and Tim Hardaway Jr. poured in 24 each to lead Dallas to victory. Zach LaVine scored 22 points to lead the Bulls.
The second home game of the season for Dallas began with several misses for both teams. The Mavericks eventually settled in, with Grant Williams connecting on a pair of threes to give Dallas 13-10 lead at the halfway point of the frame. After trading baskets, Tim Hardaway Jr. attempted to break the game open with two made threes in a row, which gave Dallas an eight-point lead. A late flurry would pull the Bulls within three and Dallas took a 26-23 lead into the next quarter.
Dallas held the lead, matching any Bulls scoring effort with one of their own. Maxi Kleber left the game with a foot injury shortly into the quarter. Following a Chicago timeout around the seven-minute mark though, the three-point shooting for the Bulls came alive. Zach Lavine’s hot shooting (he hit his first five threes) pushed the Bulls past Dallas and gave them a 48-42 lead. A Grant Williams three and a pair of Dereck Lively dunks pulled the Mavericks back into the lead, but it was short-lived. DeMar DeRozan scored on the next play and Chicago would carry a 50-49 lead into the half.
Dereck Lively got things rolling for the Mavericks with a terrific pass to Derrick Jones Jr. for a lay in. With Chicago sending two defenders at Doncic on seemingly every pick and roll, a variety of Dallas players had chances to score on solid looks. Chicago worked themselves back into the lead following a series of Doncic miscues. Hardaway ended a 7-0 Bulls run with a three following a Lively offensive board. The two teams traded the remainder of the quarter with neither team taking more than a three-point lead. The Mavericks trailed 83-81 after three periods of play.
The opening section of the fourth felt bad for Dallas. Between turnovers and missed shots, the game seemed to be getting away from the Mavericks once the Bulls built up a five-point lead. But the hustle from Lively on the glass led to additional Dallas shots, including one awesome one-handed tip out to Hardaway which resulted in a four-point play. Following the Mavericks timeout at the six-minute mark, the Mavericks exploded the rest of the game on a 20-11 run that included big shots from Grant Williams, Jaden Hardy, and Josh Green. The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Chicago Bulls at home 114-105 to improve to 4-0.
A total team effort
It’s safe to say that this was not Luka Doncic’s finest performance (18 points on 5 of 16 shooting, seven rebounds, and 10 assists). The Bulls defended him as well as any team has this season and they got away with a great deal of physical play as well.
With that in mind, it was incredible to see a variety of Dallas teammates stepping up throughout the game to help drag this Dallas team across the finish line. Dereck Lively looked nothing like a rookie. Tim Hardaway’s willingness to fire away paid off. Grant Williams looks amazing again. Derrick Jones Jr. is playing the part Dallas envisioned. I could go on.
With Kyrie Irving out, Dallas can’t simply rely on Luka Doncic brilliance. These sorts of performances should build a great deal of confidence as the Mavericks head to Denver to play the defending champs on Friday.
Dereck Lively II is special
Through four games, it’s safe to say the rookie big has surpassed all expectations I had for him entering this season. I hoped that by the second half of the season, Kidd could reliably play Lively real minutes. Knowing the history of rookie big men, this seemed a tall order but possible.
Through four games, he’s the Dallas big man who matters. His sheer size and wherewithal give Dallas something they’ve not had in a long time. He uses his size well on defense and on offense, he gets Dallas extra possessions through effort and strength. His stat line is amazing: seven points, 13 rebounds (seven on the offensive end!), six assists, a pair of steals and a block. These are not rookie numbers. What a bounce-back performance after a game laden with foul trouble.
Welcome to the season, Jaden Hardy
Staying ready is perhaps the simplest phrase indicating one of the hardest jobs for a NBA player. Second year guard Jaden Hardy showed a great deal of mental fortitude Wednesday night. Hardy did not perform well in his first stint off the bench against the Bulls, but when given a second opportunity, took full advantage by playing within himself and letting the game come to him. His nifty stop-start lay up in the fourth along with his killer three later in the period helped drag the Mavericks over the finish line against a rough-and-tumble Bulls team. With how deep Dallas goes, he won’t always get regular minutes, but when he does get into games, he has all the talent to take full advantage of those chances. The Mavericks need him.
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