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Bulls vs. Mavericks game preview, injury report, lineups

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

[Thanks to mormonfreeman for today's game preview -yfbb]

A battle of 4-seeds goes down tonight at 7 as our Bulls take on the Mavs. Last time around, the game was sheer madness, which seems pretty fitting for this equally-mad NBA season. Would you have thought any of these things would be true four months ago?

  1. Joakim Noah would be reduced to the Carlos Boozer Memorial be-energetic-from-the-bench-and-please-don't-play-right-now-plan.
  2. Jimmy Butler would go from a low-eight-figures guy to a certain-max-contract-MVP type to a complete enigma, all in three-week bursts
  3. Cameron Bairstow and Tony Snell would both start actual, regulation games in the NBA that counted for things. And then Nazr Mohammed would play real minutes in a blowout victory over the defending-champion Spurs.

Things seem to be looking up in the wake of the Spurs beatdown of last night. After Derrick Rose and co. jumped out to an absurd 27-8 third quarter run, the Bulls finally put one away without me clinging to my Benny the Bull pillow pet in fear. It was nice.

But with the Bulls exhibiting wild, drama-producing, Thibs-questioning inconsistency game in and game out, it'll take a strong showing to calm the metaphorical waters. To be frank, we haven't played particularly well against good teams for a long time, going 4-6 in our last ten (and getting gifted 2 wins by a Celtics team that more closely resembles an eBay listing than an NBA offense). When the Jazz and the Cavs are blowing you out, it's hard to keep calm.

So please, basketball gods, even if only for the sake of keeping game threads vaguely #based and #positive and #readablewithoutdrinkingprofusely, give us more of last night's Derrick Rose, who was too fast, too strong, and too good to have to play the fourth quarter.

The Mavs have been the Mavs lately, for better or worse. They were an elite offense to begin with, and then they picked up [insert your favorite curse word here] Rondo. They score 108 points a game(!!!), second only to the Golden State Warriors. They have a bonafide Hall-of-Famer in Dirk, who can still destroy you with midrange shooting; they have Chandler Parsons, easily the most talented basketball wing Mark Cuban has ever brought home from a club; and everyone can shoot in their rotation except for Rondo, which is fine, because he's just an assist-and-D machine.

In the West, that's only good enough for 4th place, and I can't really imagine them seeding any higher or much lower.
What you get in the Mavs is a consistent playoff team. They know exactly who they are-- Carlisle's had his offensive spacing and defensive impulses mapped out for years, and there isn't a whole lot you can do to stop it. You wanted to force them into midrange jumpers? Dirk laughs in your face. You close out on everything? Oh hi, Tyson Chandler.

Last time these two teams faced each other, the Bulls limited Dirk to 8-22 and baited Monta "1 assist" Ellis into 35 shots, which is pretty much the best you can hope for, but exactly two too many of those attempts went in and took out the Bulls anyway. The best laid plans sometimes go awry, yeah?

Player breakdowns alongside facts that may or may not matter, because this is too long already

Derrick Rose vs. Rajon Rondo
Did you know DRose has taken 178 3-point attempts this year?
Advantage: Bulls

Kirkny Snelbrooks vs. Monta Ellis
Yeah, I don't know who's playing either. Noah is questionable, Dunleavy is questionable, I am questionable, you are questionable.
Advantage: Bulls

Jimmy Butler vs. Chandler Parsons
I am sooooo happy Parsons is a Maverick, because you know the Mavs would have gone after Jimmy for the max if they didn't already have a wing locked up.
Advantage: jiMVP

Taj Gibson vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Advantage: Mavs

Pau Gasol vs. Tyson Chandler
Too close to call.

Bench Mob vs. Bench Mavs
If Niko doesn't foul out, advantage Bulls
If Kirk plays 36 minutes or more, advantage Mavs

Final words, I promise

The Mavericks are 7-3 in their last ten. (One of those losses was to the Tolliver-era Pistons, who will not be stopped, and yet another was a schedule loss to Denver on a back-to-back.)

The scary thing: that's not even the Mavs being particularly hot. That's just how they consistently play. And while the great equalizer of inconsistency is that you have nights where your boys absolutely rise to challenges and surprise you, I look at cursory stats and note that the Bulls have given up more than 100 points in 9 of their last 11 games. In all likelihood, the winning team tonight is going to score 110, and if we don't get a hot shooting night from behind the arc or an MVP-caliber performance from one of the Rose/Butler/Gasol trio, I don't see too positive an outcome tonight.

I hope I'm wrong, though, and that Jimmy suffocates Dirk and Parsons just by virtue of being there, and that Niko plays so well we call Dirk 'a poor man's Mirotic,' and that Derrick keeps attacking the rim with angles that don't seem possible, and that no one fouls anyone behind the three-point line, and that McD hits a Mc3, and we find ourselves resting at 8:30, listening to Stacey speak only in food metaphors.