After an entertaining but ultimately meaningless (we hope, standings-wise) game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, the Mavs travelled north to Chicago to take on Butler and Rose and the Bulls at the United Center on Friday night. With all five starters back in the lineup for Dallas, this game would be a much better test of the Mavs grit, with Chicago being one of the league's best defensive teams. ... and the results were positive, an 83-77 win (game story here.)
Things got off to a pretty rough start for Dallas on the offensive end of the floor, with the Mavs shooting just 28 percent from the field (their worst of the season) and scoring a meager 36 points in the first half. It seemed as though the Mavs starters, after sitting on Wednesday night’s game, were a bit rusty from floor coming in.
Chicago struggled as well on their end, shooting 40 percent from the field, and scoring 46 points in the opening half. Thursday night, the Bulls found themselves in an overtime fight with the Philadelphia 76ers, in which Jimmy Butler went nuts and scored 53 points. So needless to say, both teams were a bit off coming into this one, as Matt Galatzan and I detail below ...
For the game, the Mavs shot just 39 percent from the field, including 36 percent from three. The Mavs were also dominated in the paint, with Chicago winning the battle on the boards 47-43and outscoring Dallas in the paint 44-24. Dirk would lead the Mavs in scoring with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Derrick Rose lead the way for the Bulls with 18 points on eight of 18 shooting.
After trailing by 10 points at halftime, the Mavs pushed back in the third quarter, even taking the lead at one point in the quarter. Dirk would be the one to get the Mavs going in the second half after a dismal first half for the Uber Man.
After trading buckets back and forth in the final quarter, the Mavs would ultimately take control on a Dirk three with just over two minutes to go in the game.
Though the Bulls would attempt to push back, Dallas would ultimately hold on and defeat Chicago 83-77. So thanks to good defense, some elbow grease, and a whole lot of luck, the Mavs escaped the Windy City with a victory.
We've written that the Chicago success "salvages" this Monster Mash Week. Of course, tonight offers a reason why the players themselves cannot look at things that way ...
Now standing 1-2 in their most difficult stretch of the season, the Mavs will turn their attention to the AT&T Center tonight, where the 35-6 San Antonio Spurs will be waiting. Odds are, Dallas (23-18) will not be able to turn in a similar performance to this one on Sunday and expect to leave the River Walk with a win. (Nor will a repeat of the Nov. 25 meeting -- video above -- be enough.) But with a win like this in their back pocket, the Mavs will have some confidence as they walk into their big brother’s house looking to pick a fight.
Is any of Friday's "fight" transferable?
We'd like to think it is, in two positive spots ... And we concede that it isn't in two vulnerable spots:
POSTIVE 1: Matthews on Leonard - Leonard is an MVP candidate even as he's folded inside the pages of San Antonio's overall greatness. But what Wes did to Butler (4-of-11 shooting) can be a building block for tonight.
POSITIVE 2: The Spurs' interior play is keyed by Tim Duncan, who wins on savvy. ... Exactly how Zaza wins. This won't just be an athletic contest; this'll be "Sports Jeopardy," a battle of intellect.
VULNERABILITY 1: While 2s and 3s sometimes struggle versus Dallas, 4s do not ... Because, well you know, Dirk has to guard somebody. LA has a chance to go off tonight.
VULNERABILITY 2: Deron Williams jokes that he has never won in San Antonio. That is a slight exaggeration; Coop points out that the long time NBA oint guard has actually won at the Spurs, twice in one season while with the Jazz, but is otherwise 0-11 … but that is still lousy and it is still in D-Will's head. So, maybe, is the fact that San Antonio never loses at home and owns a 10-game run vs. Dallas in Ugly-Arse River City.
That mindset's gotta go. The gritty mindset Dallas developed in Chicago was, hopefully, packed safely by equipment manager Al Whitley for this trip south.