First Impressions: Bulls 93, Mavs 83
Bill Parcells used to say, ‘There's no medal for trying.' But as the Mavs wrestled with a balance between rest and momentum - a dilemma facing both teams at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday – Parcells was proven wrong. Though Chicago ultimately escaped with a 93-83 win that is important to the Bulls' chase to No. 1 in the East, the Dallas Mavericks managed to find a bit of both momentum and rest while also escaping with their health – which they hung onto by the narrow width of Roddy Beaubois' left ring finger.
The Bulls, boosted by the return of Derrick Rose, were led by Luol Deng's 22 points and six rebounds and a feisty Rip Hamilton, who scored 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting and also nearly scored a knockout by taking a swing at the back of Dirk Nowitzki's head. Joakim Noah was extremely active, chipping in eight points, eight assists and 14 rebounds and a game-high plus-19 for the Eastern Conference's likely top seed. Reigning MVP Rose – clearly not 100 percent while struggling to beat defenders like Beaubois and DoJo -- added 11 points and a game-high-tying eight assists.
The Mavericks "Rested Their Jasons.'' Playing without Jasons Kidd and Terry, they were led by Dirk, who scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in only 33 minutes of nonwork. He would sit the majority of the fourth quarter. Roddy Boubois, after suffering an ugly dislocation of his left ring finger, returned with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. Importantly, he only committed two turnovers. … and while his writhing on the floor after the injury caused Dirk Nowitzki to joke that he thought they might have to "put him down'' (you know, like he's Old Yeller), the truth is, Roddy B was awful in the first half, showed some guts by cranking his finger back in its rightful direction, and approached rotation-worthy status.
No, no, we're not saying Roddy B's finger is Jack Youngblood's leg or Jake LaMotta's face. We're just saying a guy who once was accused by his coach of requiring a "spatula'' to peel him off the floor following contact gutted it out and contributed against a title contender.
There IS a medal for trying.
Vince Carter added 15 points off the bench, and thanks to DB.com's Michael Dugat for the ramping-up numbers on Vinsanity: Over the last four games, Vince is averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.8 free throws -- and before the last four, Carter had taken six-plus FTs only once all season. He did this Saturday for a Mavs team that had little to play for – and showed it while setting a franchise record for fewest points scored in the first quarter with eight. Dallas battled back to outscore Chicago over the final three quarters. However, Chicago simply had too much firepower for the shorthanded Mavericks in the fourth quarter.
Dallas once again struggled from the arc hitting only 26.7 percent on 4-of-15 shooting. However, Dallas was buoyed by hitting 17-of-19 free throws. Despite a meager showing from Hawyood and Mahinmi, the Mavericks kept the battle of the boards to a reasonable 46-43 Bulls' advantage. Indeed, Dallas received only a combined two points, nine rebounds and zero blocks from their top two centers. Chicago capitalized, outscoring Dallas 32-26 in the point, including a 12-7 second-chance-points advantage.
With the loss, Dallas now falls to the seventh seed in the Western conference with one final game to play in this unique season. However, in a game that mattered little, Dallas managed to hang with one of the league's elite without two of their top players while holding most of the rotation's minutes in check.
There is no such thing as a ‘moral victory' at this time of year. There is only preparation. Preparation for the grueling defense of the franchise's first title.
Once again Dallas will enter the postseason as a perceived underdog. With the loss, Dallas is currently poised to square off against Oklahoma City in the first round. As we write this, ESPN's Chris Broussard is predicting a sweep for the defending champs should they face the Thunder.
Sure. Maybe. However, for a franchise that traditionally thrives in the underdog role, perhaps the Mavericks are exactly where they need to be: rested, and perhaps with just a bit of momentum, and luck, poised for something unexpected.
That was accomplished. And if others are already predicting an 0-4 ouster, can't we counterbalance that by awarding a medal for accomplishing a goal?