[Thanks to Swoove for today's preview -yfbb]
When I was little I thought Boxing Day was when Canadians celebrated the proud gladiator sport of boxing, but being 20 some odd years older and wiser I now know Boxing Day is actually the Canadian Christmas for the working class, dating back to 19th Century Britain (many other countries colonized by Britain also observe Boxing Day). Though whenever I hear the name, I think of that scene from Spongebob where Squidward is watching boxes square off in a World Championship Boxing bout.
Today, our Boxing Day title card has the Chicago Bulls traveling to Dallas to take on the Mavericks. The Bulls are one day removed from piling the Oklahoma City Thunder with enough coal to power Chesapeake Energy Arena till next Christmas. It's the first time the Bulls have played a complete game, competing for 48 minutes in a wire-to-wire win by the score of 105-96. This Bulls team usually lick their chops against marquee teams, so the extra focus was hardly a surprise. What will be surprising is if the Bulls can follow up a great performance with one of greater or equal value tonight against a Mavericks team that has seen itself struggle of late.
The Dallas Mavericks may be without Deron Williams who injured his left hamstring in their loss to the Raptors on Tuesday, a loss that prompted Rick Carlisle's threat that some guys might not be wearing a Mavericks uniform for much longer (THAT'S how it's done, Jimmy). The Mavericks followed up the loss in Toronto with a win in Brooklyn that was anything but pretty. Dirk Nowitzki (who became the 6th NBA All-Time Scorer during the contest) and back up guard J.J. Barea carried the Mavericks to a 119-118 victory over the Nets, but the Dallas offense stalled during many points of that game. If Williams is not able to play tonight against the Bulls, that could mean more trouble for them as the Bulls defense has been fairly stalwart twenty-seven games in.
This is a game where a win for either team is a must in an effort to right two ships that have been listing lazily to the left. The Mavericks are fighting for stability, the Bulls to establish a winning identity. Though J.J. Barea balled out in the Mavs' win against Brooklyn, his pedestrian numbers throughout the season prove that as an outlier, and I would not count on Dallas to lean on him for any meaningful production. Chandler Parsons hasn't lived up to his star-player expectations/potential averaging only 8.7 points per game, but consider Chicago's lack of quality wings a favor to Parsons. With Deron Williams and potentially Devin Harris out (both with hamstring issues), look for Bulls guards Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler to attack, attack, attack the likes of Barea, Raymond Felton, and John Jenkins. The Bulls have a stronger team on paper, but the Bulls have proved they are capable of losing to anyone on any given day; and though the Mavericks have only 16 wins on the season, they are a group that definitely possesses overachiever characteristics a.k.a. the "Grit Factor." Then again, as long as Kirk Hinrich sports the red, white, and black, no team will ever out-grit this Bulls team, right?
Game: Chicago Bulls @ Dallas Mavericks
Tip-Off: 7:30pm CT
TV: WGN 9 - Chicago
Radio: WMVP ESPN 1000AM