The Bulls visit North Texas to take on the Dallas Mavericks this evening for the first time this season. In their last game, Chicago came up on the losing side against Boston, 111-104, Saturday at the United Center. Zach LaVine led the Bulls with a game-high 35 points and four steals while Wendell Carter Jr. posted his third consecutive double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Forward Lauri Markkanen notched 15 points before having to leave the game with a badly sprained ankle during the final stanza.
The disappointing loss to the Celtics pushed Chicago's record to 13-23 on the season and marked the Bulls third straight defeat and fourth in their last five games. Markkanen's listed as doubtful for tonight against the Mavericks, while backups Ryan Arcidiacono (right elbow) and Chandler Hutchison (right shoulder) continue to battle a couple of nagging injuries and are game-time decisions. Otto Porter Jr. is also out of action for the foreseeable future with a fractured left foot. It's hoped he could return by the All-Star break next month.
Dallas will also take the floor this evening looking to bounce back after falling at home in overtime to Charlotte, 123-120, on Saturday. Second-year forward Luka Doncic led the Mavs' attack with 39 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while playing 43 minutes. It was Doncic's 10th triple-double on the season, and 18th of his career.
With the lost to the Hornets, Dallas is now 22-13 on the season and sits in second place, two games behind the Houston Rockets in the Southwest Division, and 6th overall in the Western Conference.
The Mavericks also have injury worries of their own, as it's likely regular starters Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (left hamstring strain) will end up sitting out tonight's contest.
Clearly a primary key for Chicago will be to contain Doncic as much as possible as so far he has scored no less than 19 points in each of Dallas' last six games.
Doncic, who doesn't turn 21 until February 28th, has been an incredible force all season, leading the Mavs in scoring with an average of 29.4 points, while also posting 8.9 assists and 9.7 rebounds per game.
For the Bulls to claim victory they're going to need to deliver a hardnosed, blue-collar effort at both ends of the floor. They must play an unselfish offensive game, freely sharing the ball with each other, while at the same time aggressively exploit opportunities to attack the paint in getting the ball to the front of the rim and forcing contact, and in turn make their way to the free throw line time and again.
All five Bulls must stay involved in the action — on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Chicago can't allow its offense to morph into a series of isolation, one-on-one battles. Crisp and steady ball movement, along with a willingness to make the extra pass in hopes of discovering an open look at the rim, is vital.
Defensively the Bulls must provide a tough-minded, fully committed effort with everyone gluing themselves to their assigned man without continually fouling. Collectively, Chicago must go all out, fighting and scrapping for every rebound and loose ball. They come into tonight as the league's top ranked team in forcing opponent turnovers (18.4) and scoring off those turnovers (21.4).
In order to be the last team standing at the end of the night the Bulls need to do what they do best at both ends of the court while blanketing Doncic as much as possible, forcing the Mavericks to scramble in find someone else to lead the way.