The Bulls (29-14) returned back to their winning ways at home on Thursday by beating the visiting Dallas Mavericks (27-15), sweeping the season series and sending Dallas to their ninth loss in their last 12 games, including six straight losses on the road.
Derrick Rose’s 19 ft. pull-up jumper over Jason Kidd gave Chicago an 80-77 lead with 55 seconds remaining. The Mavericks turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and Rose would miss another jumper, but Dallas couldn’t get another score in the games final minute.
Rose scored 26 points, handed out 9 assists, pulled down 7 rebounds and was the only player for the Bulls to reach double figures in scoring as it was a physical, defensive game between two of the top teams in their respective Conferences.
“Very physical,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. Everything was contested, pretty much the whole night. It was an old-fashioned Eastern Conference style game.”
The Bulls shot 36% from the field, while the Mavericks shot 35%.
Chicago was able to outrebound Dallas 51-41, including 17 on the offensive boards that led to 14 second chance points.
“The offensive rebounds were huge,” said Tom Thibodeau. “We were really struggling to score. I thought Derrick’s penetration led to the second shots. Derrick didn’t have a great shooting night, but his will in the second half just created scoring opportunities for us.”
Rose shot 9-28 for the game — which was the second consecutive game he’s attempted that number of shots — but with the rest of the starters shooting a combined 8-28 on the evening, the benched stepped up and provided 30 points.
C.J. Watson hit two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Bulls battled back to take the lead against the Mavericks who had outscored them 25-12 in the third period and were up 60-56 entering the fourth.
“I thought the shots C.J. hit in the fourth were huge for us. Of course, the matchups really dictated that and I was concerned about their quickness. I thought that, that would help negate it or allow us to matchup better where we wouldn’t be in so many scramble situations. I think C.J. has been playing very well for us.”
Kurt Thomas’ (9 points, 11 rebounds) 5 offensive rebounds in the games final minutes were huge as it led to timely baskets to keep Dallas at bay.
“We came in the game undersized,” said Ronnie Brewer, who finished with 8 points and 3 steals — bringing what has become his trademark defensive energy off the bench. “They have some big bodies in the starting lineup and coming off the bench. With our two guys injured, we have to rely on Kurt — who’s been doing a phenomenal job– Omer and Taj has been playing really well for us.”
The Mavericks were coming off an emotional 109-100 win over the Lakers on Wednesday night and just didn’t have enough of an offensive rhythm to try and steal this one in the closing minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki finished with 19 points on 6-16 shooting. Both Taj Gibson and Luol Deng (12 rebounds) made things very hard against the All-Star forward, who is still working his way back from missing nine games due to a sprained knee.
“He’s a tough cover,” said Thibodea. “You try to keep quick feet on him. I thought Taj had a couple of tough calls go against him, so that put him on the bench early. They do a really good job of moving him around so, you’re going to get the looks in the pick and rolls and then they’re screening him into the post, he’s getting angles, catch and shoot — you have to defend every aspect of the game with them. I thought Taj and then Luol, they did a good job but even though we were defending him well, his shot is so hard to get to because it’s such high release. He’s a terrific player.”
After losing to Charlotte twice in less than a week, it was the kind of grind-it-out game that the team has built it’s reputation on in dealing with injuries to both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
“Their team finds ways to win,” said Carlisle. “That’s one of the things that’s kind of defined their season so far.”
Carlos Boozer was listed as gametime decision before Thursdays game, but the team elected to sit him for a second straight game.
“He wasn’t quite ready this morning, so I didn’t feel good about throwing him out there tonight without a practice,” said Thibodeau about wanting Boozer to be able to go through a full practice before returning to the lineup.
“We want him to play when he’s healthy,” said Thibodeau . “Once Fred [Tedeschi, Bulls head athletic trainer] clear him, he’ll be back. We feel very good about our bench. Taj is doing a great job at filling in, Kurt has doing a great job filling in — that’s the way it is right now. He’s real close, so probably the next game.”
Deng only shot 3-13 on Thursday, but pulled down 12 rebounds and defense on a Nowitzki fallaway jumper with the score 80-77 with 1:18 to play was the stop that led to Rose’s big basket was a key moment in the win.
“That’s what I love about Luol,” said Thibodeau. He can play well effectively when he’s not shooting well. When you look at his defense and just doing other things — he’s rebounding the ball for us, setting screens, running the floor, doing all those things. He’s invaluable to us.”
Although Deng has struggled in the past two games with his shot, Thibodeau, like he has all season long, has praised the seven-year forward for all the little things that Deng has done.
The Bulls swept the Dallas Mavericks for the first time since the 1996-97 season.