Image Credit: @MavsPR
On Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks played the Chicago Bulls seeking to rebound from their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks as they fight for a top spot in the western conference.
On Thursday, the Mavericks played the Milwaukee Bucks that featured the back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and MVP favorite Luka Doncic. The Mavericks came into this game on a four game winning streak and without five key players due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Mavericks had a chance to win this one late after trailing by as much as 14 points throughout the game. Trey Burke and Kristaps Porzingis missed the go-ahead 3-point shots in the final 21 seconds of the game to keep their winning streak alive. Luka Doncic looked like he wanted to call a timeout off the Burke’s miss but decided to play on and went to Kristaps Porzingis, who missed with 10.4 seconds left. Khris Middleton would hit a pair of free-throws with 7.8 seconds left to seal the victory for the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 31 points despite struggling at the free-throw line. Luka Doncic had 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to give himself another triple-double. With this loss, the Mavericks four game winning streak would be snapped to drop their record to 6-5 on the season.
The Chicago Bulls are coming into this game looking to get in the win column as they have lost four straight (all by 4 points or less). Recently they are coming off a close overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder as Zach LaVine had a chance to win in the final seconds. The Chicago Bulls, despite their record of 4-8, have been averaging 116.8 points per game that ranks 4th in the NBA this season. These Bulls can put up points in a hurry as they are not a team to take easy. These Bulls are coming into this with a bunch of young talent as they are continuing their rebuild. They are expected to be busy at the trade deadline looking to acquire draft picks as they decide the future of Zach LaVine. These teams met earlier this season that featured in a Bulls 118-108 win that was played without Luka Doncic. Zach LaVine scored 39 points and Coby White scoring 21 of his 23 points in the second half to give the Bulls the win.
Entering this game, the Mavericks spilt their season series against the Bulls last season 1-1 with the Bulls claiming the last one. The Mavericks dropped their first game versus the Bulls this season and are hoping for another split. Twelve of the last 14 meetings have been decided by single digits. The Mavericks have have gone 31-13 (.704) in the teams last 44 matchups. Overall, the Mavericks lead the all-time series lead with a record of 41-38. This will be the final matchup between these teams in the first half of the season.
The Mavericks started this game getting more depleted as they are without six rotation players including Tim Hardaway Jr as he was ruled out due to a groin injury that doesn’t appear to be serious. Both teams would get points early before deciding to go on a scoreless drought but Luka Doncic decided to break some ankles as he would go on a personal 8-0 run to get the Mavericks going. The Mavericks would have a 10-5 lead with 8 of the points belonging to Luka Doncic before the Bulls decided to take a full timeout with 7:36 left in the first quarter. That’s exactly the type of start the Mavericks were hoping for especially being so depleted in this game. Coming out of the timeout, the Bulls decided to head to the free-throw line with their shots not falling in but couldn’t capitalize as they made 2-4 free-throws. With the Mavericks leading 16-9 midway through the quarter, Luka Doncic has scored or assisted in all of the team’s points. The Bulls found themselves in the bonus with 4:44 left in the quarter as that would be a factor in them trying to erase the Mavericks lead. They would go on to do just that as Daniel Gafford was able to give the Bulls their first lead of the game by making a layup to give them a 20-19 lead with 3:07 left in the quarter. Luka Doncic would earn his 5th technical foul of the season by arguing with the officials as he thought he was fouled. You can’t afford to give teams free points especially in a game like this. With the Bulls on a 9-0 run in the final minutes of the quarter, Trey Burke killed the run by making 1 of his 3 free-throws. That wouldn’t be enough as the Bulls ended the quarter on a 9-3 run to take a 27-23 lead. The Mavericks started this game hot but cooled off in the final 6:00 minutes of the quarter that would result in the Bulls seeing red. The Mavericks shot 30% on 9 of 25 shooting in the quarter as the Mavericks couldn’t maintain their momentum in the quarter.
The Chicago Bulls started the second quarter by going on a 6-0 run to increase their lead to 10 points as they were able to capitalize on the Mavericks struggling defense. The Mavericks couldn’t buy a bucket as they missed their first 4 shots of the second quarter that would result in Rick Carlisle taking a timeout with 9:20 left. Coming off the timeout, they were able to snap the Bulls run with Luka Doncic finding Kristaps Porzingis for an alley oop to give them their first made field goal of the quarter. The Bulls didn’t care as they continue to attack the Mavericks defense by going strong in the paint. The Mavericks looked like 2 completely different teams with Luka Doncic on and off the court as they would need every single ounce of “Luka Magic” to have any chance of coming out of this with the victory. The Mavericks saw their opportunity open up with the Bulls going cold as they try to erase the Bulls 13 point lead by getting as close as 9 points. The officials have decided that they would not blow their whistles when needed as they were afraid of the Bull’s horns by missing Willie Cauley-Stein getting hacked at the wrist on a alley oop attempt. Don’t worry I can criticize the officials as much as I want without being fined by the NBA so Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban can save a couple thousand in their pocket. The Mavericks continued to struggle on the offensive end by not getting shots to go in as Luka Doncic would look to find his other super hero in the game. In search for a spark, Luka Doncic decided to take things on his own by hitting a step back three pointer to give the Mavericks some type of life in the quarter. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Bulls remained in attack mode as they continued to remain aggressive by attacking the paint and getting to the free-throw line. The quarter would end in the Bulls taking a 67-52 lead as they were able to maintain their momentum. Luka Doncic gave the Mavericks CPR as he scored 20 points in the quarter and if it wasn’t for that this game would be over at halftime. He would end with 30 points in total as nobody on the Mavericks scored more than 8 points. The team shot 41.7% on 20 of 48 shooting in the first half as Luka Doncic is doing everything he can to carry the massive load. Garret Temple had himself a good half for the Bulls as he would give them 17 points off the bench. Zach LaVine didn’t need to carry the load as his teammates were there to help with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr combining for 26 points. A 15 point deficit at halftime would be the Mavericks largest halftime deficit all season as Luka Doncic might have to score 60 points to even have a chance.
Coming out of the half, the Bulls continue to attack the interior of the Mavericks defense by driving to the paint for easy points. The paint is green and maybe the Bulls resembled that as “easy” or “money” as the Bulls were using that all game long. The Mavericks were facing an uphill battle already and with them missing shots in this quarter would only make it harder. The Mavericks decided to try to climb Mt. Everest in one day and the Mavericks were still at the bottom. The Bulls were able to increase their lead that once stood at 14 points to 19 points in the early stages of the third quarter. Luka Doncic desperately needs some help as his teammates couldn’t pick up the slack, maybe they can by trying to get Zach LaVine note to leave Dallas at the end of this game. Luka Doncic would record another triple-double by going behind his back twice to find him Willie Cauley-Stein for the easy slam dunk. The Mavericks somehow found themselves back in this game by cutting the 15 point halftime deficit to 9 by Luka Doncic lending his “Magic” to his teammates and the Bulls going on a scoring drought. The Bulls had second thoughts as they continue their fast paced offense, getting easy points as they weren’t going to allow the Mavericks to get set on defense. The Bulls were able to build a 8-0 run coming out of the timeout as they remain in attack mode as they approached the final minutes of the quarter. The drought buster would belong to James Johnson as he helped the Mavericks end the Bulls run by making a layup. The Mavericks couldn’t makeup much as ground as the Bulls would lead 89-75 heading into the final quarter.
The Mavericks started the final quarter with a 14 point deficit as they will need to create stops on defense and go on a long scoring run. The Mavericks were doing the Bulls a favor by missing shots that would allowing them to use the clock in their favor. With Luka Doncic starting the fourth quarter on the bench, he would need to have his team chip away at this Bulls lead to at least 10 points. The Bulls were able to get easy points with the Mavericks giving the ball up which would then allow the Bulls to get points off the fast break. With the Bulls holding a 14 point lead with 8:25 left in the game, the Mavericks are hoping for one more run before they put Luka Doncic back in the game. He would indeed return with 7:25 left as the Mavericks had no choice as they were infected with the “turnover bug”. Even with Luka Doncic returning, the Bulls didn’t let it phase them as they continue to get looks on offense. The Bulls could let Luka Doncic do whatever he wants as it wouldn’t matter as long as they scored on offense. With time on the Bulls side, they were able to slow the game down and let this game tick away from the Mavericks.
This team looked like they didn’t want to come out and play as there was lack of effort. The Bulls were bullying and sometimes toying with the Mavericks by getting any looks that they wanted. This is the team that we saw in 2020 and the questions of consistency will continue on as they allowed the Bulls to take this game away from them. The Mavericks would need to make a move in the Trade Deadline if they want to make a deep playoff run.
In the end, it was the Chicago Bulls claiming victory in this game as the beat the Dallas Mavericks 117-101 for a season sweep. The Mavericks record dropped to 6-6 on the season and are now facing a two game losing streak. Luka Doncic gave every single ounce of “Magic” that he had by delivering 36 points, 15 assists and 16 rebounds for the Mavericks. It doesn’t matter how many triple-doubles Luka Doncic records throughout the season if it doesn’t result in success. The Chicago Bulls were able to use a big game from Lauri Markkanen and Garrett Temple by combining for 46 points as the Mavericks had no answer. With Luka Doncic recording a 30 point triple-double that would give him his 15th 30 point triple-double since he entered the league which is the most during that timeframe.
The Mavericks will now begin another road trip, this time for three games beginning with the Toronto Raptors on Monday. The Mavericks will be looking to come out of this road trip with a record of 2-1 or better as they cannot afford to lose ground in the western conference.