In a matchup of two teams that have struggled throughout the first month of the season, the Chicago Bulls coasted to victory over the Dallas Mavericks by a score of 101-78 on Wednesday night.
With the win, the Bulls improved their record to 7-7, while the Mavericks fell to 7-9 on the season. The key to the Bulls' victory was steady production from their bench, which head coach Tom Thibodeau chose to emphasize after a grueling loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night.
Overall, the Bulls were the more efficient team, shooting 49.3 percent from the field compared to the Mavericks' abysmal mark of 34.6 percent.
Luol Deng and Joakim Noah led the way for the Bulls once again, scoring 22 and 13 points, respectively. The Mavericks' leading scorer on the night was Shawn Marion (18 points), who was one of just four Dallas players to finish scoring in double figures.
Let’s take a look at how both teams graded out in Wednesday night's matchup.
Dominique Jones, PG, DAL: B-
With Darren Collison sitting out due to a sprained finger, Dominique Jones was thrust into a starting role against the Bulls.
Although Jones does not possess the distributive abilities of a conventional point guard, he's an adept scorer with a quick first step. Jones looked comfortable running the floor but was not used as a primary ball-handler in half-court sets.
Instead, Jones was utilized more off of the ball and finished with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
If Collison is forced to sit out a few more games, the Mavs could certainly do worse than using Jones as a substitute.
Kirk Hinrich, PG, CHI: C
The absence of Derrick Rose has been the biggest reason why the Chicago Bulls have gotten off to a slow start this season.
Filling in for the injured Rose has been Kirk Hinrich, whose playmaking abilities don't belong in the same conversation as the former MVP's.
Because Rose was such a dynamic presence, he helped space the floor better for his teammates, and that's something Hinrich has not been capable of doing.
Hinrich's a competent passer, and the offense was most fluid on Wednesday night when he could dish the ball early in sets to Richard Hamilton and Luol Deng curling off of screens.
Hinrich wound up finishing with six points and three assists on the night, and the team was a minus-two in the plus/minus with him on the floor.
O.J. Mayo, SG, DAL: F
The Mavericks' leading scorer entering the game (20.8 points per game), O.J. Mayo, was not an active body on the offensive end at all against the Chicago Bulls.
Despite playing more minutes than any other Mavs player (35), Mayo was stifled by a Chicago Bulls defense that was searching to limit his clean looks at the basket.
The Bulls enlisted the help of their bigs to hedge on Mayo on several occasions, and it turned out to be an effective tactic.
Mayo's night ended with just four points in the scoring column to go with a team-high three steals.
Richard Hamilton, SG, CHI: C-
Coming off of a game against the Milwaukee Bucks in which he scored 30 points, Richard Hamilton was not emphasized as a large part of the team's offensive game plan.
When Hamilton did get looks they were from the Rip Hamilton playbook, moving off of off-ball screens in order to get free looks at the basket.
With head coach Tom Thibodeau calling on his bench to play some extended minutes, Hamilton did not end up playing a considerable role and finished with just four points on 2-of-4 shooting.
Jae Crowder, SF, DAL: F
With Shawn Marion sliding up to play the power forward, Dallas Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle enlisted the help of rookie Jae Crowder at the starting small forward spot.
Averaging just 19 minutes per game entering Wednesday night's game, Crowder looked lost on more than a few occasions, often drifting around the perimeter in a passive manner.
Like most of the Mavericks' starters, Crowder could never find a rhythm, and finished the night with two points, three rebounds and one assist.
Luol Deng, SF, CHI: A
The glue holding the Chicago Bulls together in Derrick Rose's absence has been Luol Deng. Perhaps overused with Rose sidelined, Deng was given a lighter workload against the Mavericks, playing 35 minutes, six fewer than his season average of 41.
Despite playing fewer minutes, Deng was still efficient, as he took advantage of a favorable matchup against Crowder. Had Deng been forced into action against Shawn Marion, the story may have been quite different.
Deng wound up leading the Bulls in the first half with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and ultimately finished with a team-high 22 points to complement his six rebounds.
Shawn Marion, PF, DAL: B+
One of the few bright spots for the Dallas Mavericks, Shawn Marion was just about the only assertive member of the Mavs offense, pulling up with confidence on mid-range jumpers as well as attacking Carlos Boozer off of the dribble.
With speed and athleticism that helped him take advantage of Boozer's slow feet, Marion compiled a team-high 12 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting.
In addition to his steady offensive output, Marion did a great job of fronting Boozer in the post, and held him scoreless for the game's first 24 minutes.
Although Marion's contributions were a welcome sight, alone they were not enough to push the Mavs past the Bulls. Marion finished with 18 points, three rebounds and two blocks.
Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI: C-
Carlos Boozer wound up being one of the primary casualties of Tom Thibodeau's reliance on his reserves.
Boozer played just 10 first-half minutes compared to backup Taj Gibson's 14, and forced up one contested, falling away jumper due to Marion's stifling defense.
As Boozer's numbers continue to fall short of expectations (thanks to a massive contract), you never know which version of the aging forward you're going to get on any given night.
On the night, Boozer was limited to six points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Chris Kaman, C, DAL: C
When the ball found Chris Kaman's hands, he looked like a confident post player, using his quick jump-hook to neutralize Joakim Noah's defense.
Unfortunately, with his team down such a significant margin in the second half, Kaman was not a recipient of many looks down low. Instead, the Mavs were busy trying to shoot their way back into the game to no avail.
Kaman demonstrated a complete repertoire of offensive moves that few of today's centers possess en route to a final line of 10 points and four rebounds.
Joakim Noah, C, CHI: A-
If All-Star voting ended today, Joakim Noah would be worthy of the starting spot in the Eastern Conference.
Noah has continually shown an aggression on the offensive glass that few players can match, and his surprising ability to drive to the basket has become a nice wrinkle in his game.
Running the high-low pick-and-roll with ease, Noah was freed up for several easy dunks as well as some open rebounding opportunities when the Mavericks failed to rotate back on defense.
Holding down the fort on both ends of the floor, Noah finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Vince Carter, SF, DAL: C+
What you see with Vince Carter is what you get. The artist formerly known as "Vinsanity" is a volume shooter, meaning he needs to hoist up plenty of shots in order to rake in even a decent number of points.
Carter's shot wasn't off, but he wasn't playing with efficiency in mind. Knocking down just two of his first seven shots (both three-pointers), it was clear that Carter wasn't going to have a profound impact on the game like he did the night before against the Philadelphia 76ers (15 points).
Carter's second half was a quiet one, and his plus/minus of minus-17 reflected limited effectiveness, as the former Slam Dunk Contest champion totaled 10 points in 18 minutes.
Taj Gibson, PF, CHI: B
Once Taj Gibson and the Chicago Bulls' reserves entered the game late in the first quarter, the shape of the game quickly changed.
A tight first quarter turned into a blowout thanks to Gibson's defense, which was key to holding the Mavericks to just 19 second-quarter points.
While his offensive production wasn't anything spectacular (eight points), Gibson recorded a telling plus/minus of plus-35 that helped the Bulls capture a slump-busting win.
Dallas Bench: C
The Mavericks entered Wednesday night's tilt with the Chicago Bulls with the league's third-highest scoring bench, averaging 42 points per game thanks to contributors like Elton Brand, Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois and surprisingly, Troy Murphy.
However, the Mavs' bench was vastly outplayed by an energized set of Chicago reserves on Wednesday evening.
Carter led all Dallas bench scorers with 10 points, but key pieces like Brand and Murphy were nearly invisible.
Brand showed up on the glass to the tune of six rebounds but was only able to muster four points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Chicago Bench: A
The key to Chicago's convincing victory, the Bulls' bench looked as sharp as ever, totaling 50 points as a unit.
Backup point guard Nate Robinson played the role of facilitator for the Bulls' second unit, posting 14 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting to go with six assists and two steals.
Swingmen Jimmy Butler and Marco Belinelli continue to look good in spot duty, as the two combined for 24 points in 40 combined minutes.