After a late start time Friday night, thanks to this being the first nationally-televised Mavs game (excluding NBA TV coverage), Dallas hoped to vent any lingering frustrations over a tight loss to the Hornets on Wednesday against the visiting Chicago Bulls.
Particularly, they wished to vanquish any third quarter demons.
And once again, the third quarter tried to become the story … at least, until the fourth had it's say and crushed all hopes for immediate redemption.
Along the path to their 88-83 loss, the Mavs opened the third with a 20-4 sprint to grab a 12-point lead (55-43), only to see Chicago counter with a 13-4 run of their own to close the quarter down only three (59-56).
As we've come to expect, it was Dirk Nowitzki leading the charge, and doing his best to bleach the memory of the collapse in New Orleans, with 14 points in the third, on his way to a game-high 36 points, along with eight rebounds and two steals.
Yet, as it was for most of the night, Dirk found himself almost alone … without offensive support.
Two key members of the Dallas bench, Jason Terry and JJ Barea, struggled severely, as they combined to go 3-of-22 from the floor and contribute only nine points, all from Terry. Caron Butler was the lone Mav to reach double-digit scoring aside Dirk … but again struggled to find his shot, going 3-of-10. As a team, Dallas shot 40 percent for the game.
Had history been any indication, the Mavs entered the night in an ideal situation to bounce back. Beyond this year's two preseason victories, Dallas carried a 21-3 record against the Bulls over their last 24 meetings … and the Bulls had not defeated the Mavs in Dallas since February of 2005.
Of course, this isn't the same Bulls team so many of those victories came against. Rather, they are now fueled by the presence of "a legitimate great player," as Carlisle called him, Derrick Rose … not to mention the different sort of fuel provided by the energetic Noah.
It quickly became evident that the Mavs could not stay in front of Rose, as they also endured multiple defensive breakdowns near the rim, allowing the Bulls to score 18 of their first 28 paints in the paint.
Despite this, the Mavs kept the game close heading into the break, trailing by only four behind Dirk Nowitzki's 16 first-half points.
In the end, the Bulls pulled away behind the scoring of Derrick Rose (22 points) and Taj Gibson (17 points), and the all-around effort of Joakim Noah (10 points and 17 rebounds) … oh, and the Bulls' 13 fourth-quarter second-chance points, compared to the Mavs' one.
Dirk was able to do a lot, he just needed a little help that never came.
*Pregame, Carlisle also addressed possibilities as to why Brendan Haywood could have 17 rebounds against Philadelphia and then total only three over the next two games.
"I don't think it's an effort thing." Carlisle began.
"A lot of times, a guy like Brendan will have his body on somebody, and then Dirk will go snatch a rebound, Marion will snatch a rebound, Kidd." Carlisle continued. "Some of that is happenstance. Some of it varies with our defenses."
While Carlisle's points may be valid, it remains hard to understand how a player of Haywood's size and height could go 45 minutes, with much of that coming against Jason Smith, and grab a total of three rebounds.
In his first seven minutes here, Haywood had matched that total with two points and three rebounds. He finished a statistically solid performance with seven points, four rebounds and one block.
*To place context around the last Bulls victory in Dallas 2/8/05, Tyson Chandler led the Bulls with 15 rebounds … and Michael Finley was the third leading scorer for Dallas with 16 points, behind mainstays Dirk (27) and Terry (25).
*Caron Butler had his best regular-season scoring game as Mav against the Bulls last season, with 27 points … including going 14-16 from the free-throw line.
Friday night, after a slow offensive start, though he was playing noticeably better than his first game back after missing three with back spasms, Butler was aggressive throughout and finished with 12 points, five rebounds and a steal.
This was much better than the Hornets game for Butler, but not "better'' enough.
*The 35 points Dallas scored in the first half stands as their lowest scoring half of the season.
Luckily (at the time), though the defense wasn't always strong, and the Mavs only shot 38.5%; the 39 points Chicago put up was the least by a Dallas opponent in an opening half this year.
*Chicago severely outrebounded the Mavs, 59-to-34 (or 63-to-39 including team rebounds) according to the post-game statistics made available by the Mavs.
*Limited by foul trouble, Tyson Chandler had another strong game with eight points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 28:22 minutes.
*Dirk was a surprising 3-of-6 from the free-throw line, including a crucial miss that could have brought the Mavs within two with under a minute remaining in the game. For him, this was his only blemish (other than the loss) on an otherwise spectacular game.
*After reaching 60 quarters without giving up 30 points, the Mavs ended their streak against the Hornets, and after keeping the Bulls to no more than 20 in a quarter through three, gave up 32 in the final, and deciding frame.
Now 7-4 on the season, the Mavs let a win slip from their grasp and left a less-than-stellar impression on their first national audience.