CHICAGO — Before Saturday’s game, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said there was no question the outcome would be determined by which team competed harder.
The Mavericks seemed to follow that instruction perfectly, building a 32-point lead on the way to a 105-83 victory over the Chicago Bulls at United Center.
Guard Monta Ellis led Dallas with 22 points, while forward Dirk Nowitzki and guard Vince Carter added 18 points each. Forward Shawn Marion contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“There is no doubt that we played well,” Carlisle said. “When we rebound and defend like that, we are a formidable team.”
The Bulls fell to 1-8 against Western Conference opponents this season. The Mavericks are 8-3 against the East. Entering Saturday’s action, the West held a commanding 96-44 advantage in out-of-conference games.
Center Joakim Noah led Chicago with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer added 13 points each for the Bulls, who ended a three-game home winning streak against Dallas.
The Mavericks (17-13) started the game by going 2 of 12 from the field but then hit 10 of their last 11 shots in the first quarter. They finished the quarter with a 15-2 run to pull ahead 30-19.
“Once they start, it’s hard to turn them off,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They have a lot of weapons they come at you with. I have to do a better job of getting us ready.”
The second quarter was more of the same as both Nowitzki and forward Jae Crowder completed
four-point plays within a three-minute span. Nowitzki’s jumper boosted the Dallas lead to 59-30 with 1:31 left in the first half.
By the end of the third quarter, the game appeared to be a complete laugher with the Mavs leading 86-56. The Bulls (11-17) scored the first 16 points of the fourth quarter, though, and closed to 86-72 with 6:30 left when Noah converted a lob pass and finished a three-point play.
Dallas ended its scoreless streak with a driving lay-in by Carter and then a jumper by Ellis that pushed the lead back to 18 points. Chicago got back within 95-81 on Gibson’s hook shot before Nowitzki capped a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer that made it 102-81 with 2:15 left.
The Mavericks knocked down seven of their first nine 3-point shots and finished 13 of 26.
“We need to remember what we need to do to play this way,” Ellis said. “We need to play together. The biggest thing we need to do is come out and be aggressive at both the offensive and defensive ends.”
Dallas was not only hitting jumpers but getting fouled. At one point in the second quarter, the Bulls had committed 13 fouls compared with the Mavericks’ three. Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau picked up a technical for complaining to the officials midway through the second quarter.
By beating Brooklyn on Christmas Day, the Bulls won consecutive games for the first time since Derrick Rose was injured on Nov. 22. But the winning streak ended at two.
“Right when you’re feeling too good about yourself, somebody smacks you,” Gibson said. “That’s part of the NBA. You’ve just got to bounce back, but we’ve got to do our job.”