The Dallas Mavericks entered the United Center losers of two straight, including a hard-fought 100-98 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night. For a team stocked with veteran players, the back end of a road back-to-back set figured to be a tiring venture. And it was.
The Chicago Bulls (7-7) pounded the Mavericks (7-9) to the tune of a 44-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulls hustled to loose balls. They had more bounce in their jumps, particularly as the game wore on. What was only a 24-23 Chicago advantage after the first quarter ballooned to a 58-42 halftime lead and got even worse over the second half.
Credit Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for finding valuable bench production in this game, something that his team had been missing over the season's first 13 games. Chicago's reserves outscored the Mavericks' second team 50-34. They helped Thibodeau rest his veteran starters like Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer (who both played fewer than 19 minutes).
Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler seized their opportunities for minutes. Robinson's always had the ability to create his own shot, but tonight he put his teammates in position for easy buckets. Butler, meanwhile, harassed Dallas coach Rick Carlisle's offense and sliced his way to the basket where he finished plays or earned a trip to the free-throw line.
Joakim Noah lead the charge for the Bulls' efforts on the glass, but Luol Deng was the best player on the court for all of his 34-plus minutes. He picked his spots on the offensive end, finding timely buckets during rare Chicago cold streaks. He took bigger, more physical defenders (Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder) to the basket or shot over the top of them when the situation presented itself.
Marion was the lone bright spot on an otherwise forgettable night for Dallas. He did his best to be the go-to scorer that O.J. Mayo was not. He was the lone Mavericks player who didn't look like he was playing his second game in as many nights.
But Marion alone couldn't will his team to this victory. Chicago was simply too deep and too fresh for Dallas in this game.