Things might finally be turning around for the Chicago Bulls, who have won consecutive games for the first time this season.
They'll go for three in a row Monday when they host the Dallas Mavericks at the United Center.
The Bulls (4-10), widely expected to be one of the Eastern Conference's best teams, struggled in losing 10 of their first 12 games. But they've rebounded with consecutive home wins, including a 111-95 win over Charlotte Saturday.
Slow starts are nothing new for Chicago. In 2004-05, the Bulls started 2-13 before finishing 47-35, and last season, they stumbled to a 3-9 start before a 49-33 finish.
They're hoping this season's early struggles will be similarly forgotten, and the last two games have been a step in the right direction. They held Atlanta to 30 first-half points in a 90-78 win last Tuesday, and Ben Wallace posted his first double-double of the season in Saturday's victory with 10 points and 19 rebounds.
"We're just trying to work on getting better as a team," Wallace said Saturday. "I think that we definitely think that we can be one of the elite teams in this league, but as of late we haven't been playing like it. Tonight we came out and put together a great effort collective, as a team."
Ben Gordon and Luol Deng each shot 13-for-21 against the Bobcats, with Gordon scoring 34 and Deng 29 - both season highs. The Bulls shot a season-best 54.3 percent from the field in that game, the first time they've been above 46 percent.
For the season, their 39.7 percent mark from the field is still the worst in the NBA.
"We are not going to shoot 50 percent every game," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "The wide-open ones, you have to make 80 percent of those and tonight we did."
The Mavericks (11-6) also think they're capable of more than they've been showing recently. Dallas has lost four of six since a 9-2 start, including a 112-108 overtime loss at New Orleans on Saturday.
Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki each scored 19 points, but the Mavericks squandered a late five-point lead and were held scoreless for a pivotal 2:20 stretch of overtime.
"Our guys were battling. We were rebounding. We were getting after it. We left everything out there on the floor," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "The game never should have gone into overtime. ... Hopefully, we will learn from this situation and do better."
Nowitzki was 5 of 15 from the field in the game, and is averaging just 20.9 points, his lowest since the 1999-2000 season.
The Mavs have lost three straight road games, their worst since a four-game skid from March 3-11, 2004. They are 3-5 outside of Dallas after going 31-10 on the road last season.
Dallas has won 16 of the last 18 between the teams, but Chicago handed the Mavericks one of their 10 road losses in 2006-07, a 96-85 victory on Jan. 25. The Bulls limited them to 31.2 percent shooting and ended a seven-game losing streak to Dallas at the United Center.
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