Preview: Mavs, Bulls set for battle minus MVPs
Earl K. Sneed reports from Chicago, where the Bulls and the Dallas Mavericks will do battle Wednesday night with both trying to get back to .500 without their former MVPs.
Preview: Mavericks (7-8) at Bulls (6-7)
Mavs, Bulls set for battle minus MVPs
CHICAGO — The Dallas Mavericks know all too well the position that the Chicago Bulls find themselves in while playing without former NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
That’s because the Mavericks (7-8) are an exact mirror image of the Bulls, playing themselves without 2007 league MVP and 2011 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki and sitting a game below .500 as well as the two teams meet up Wednesday night at the United Center.
Much like the Mavs, the Bulls (6-7) enter Wednesday night’s showdown hungry for a win, after watching helplessly as a 27-point lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter eventually turned into a 93-92 home loss to Milwaukee on Monday night. And with Rose (torn left ACL and MCL) yet to touch the court this season just like Nowitzki (right knee surgery), Chicago’s seemingly-always strong home-court advantage has also evaporated to just a 3-4 mark with the Mavericks coming into town.
“You know, they’re coming off of a 25-point comeback or something like that. Milwaukee came back on them in the second half by 25 points, so they’re gonna be revved up ready to play and we have to come with a lot of intensity. And if we play well then we can do some things,” Mavericks big man Elton Brand said as his team journeys into the Windy City.
But the Mavs will also have a chip on their shoulders after back-to-back losses of their own in disappointing fashion.
Looking to bounce back from a season-worst 115-89 loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday, the Mavs began a stretch of eight of 10 on the road with a 100-98 defeat Tuesday night in Philadelphia. And after late-game miscues and eight turnovers in the fourth quarter left the Dallas team with just a 2-5 mark away from the American Airlines Center, the Mavericks will face the daunting task of putting the two disappointing showings out of their minds in order to concentrate on the second night of their back-to-back.
“That was a winnable game,” leading scorer O.J. Mayo said after missing two free throws that would have tied it with 2.7 seconds left. “Hats off to [the 76ers], they played well. They made plays when it was time to make plays, but a game like that, that’s one we’ve gotta have no matter how you look at it. Obviously you’d like to rewind it and get some of those plays back, but hats off to them, they got the win and we got a loss. So, we’ve gotta have a short memory, and the great thing about this league is there’s another game tomorrow. So, we’ve gotta get ready to gear up for Chicago.”
Those plays Mayo alluded to would be the eight costly turnovers in the game’s final 12 minutes of play after committing just seven giveaways during the first three quarters. And with the Mavs hungry for a much-needed road victory, coach Rick Carlisle and his players agree that the squad's ultimate success will weigh heavily on its ability to take better care of the ball.
“They were untimely to say the least and completely out of character to how we had played to that point,” Carlisle admitted after six straight turnovers to start the final period changed the momentum of the game. “We’ve gotta eliminate those. And right now, in games like this, it’s about how you manage mistakes, and we’ve got to do things simple and we’ve got to do things the right way.”
“We had some lapses where we had some turnovers in key moments and that’s something that we’ve gotta key in on, because when playoffs come, we can’t have turnovers like that in the fourth quarter,” point guard Darren Collison added after moving to the bench for the first time this season to tally 12 points, six assists and five steals while also committing four turnovers himself. “We’ve jut gotta keep working at it, working at it, working at it and execute way better than we did in the fourth.”
Note: The Mavs will now conclude their back-to-back Wednesday night, touching down in Chicago for a battle against the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. The game will air locally at 7 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest.