Wednesday night’s game at the United Center between the Bulls and Mavericks featured a pair of 7-3 teams, but Chicago had been the much better team through 10 games. True to form, the Bulls were the much better team in this one, cruising to a 117-107 victory on the back of an excellent team performance.
Zach LaVine led five Bulls in double figures with 23 points as they shot 50.6% from the field and a red-hot 15-of-31 from 3-point range. Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso did the majority of the work from downtown, with Ball going 7-of-10 from distance and Caruso going 3-of-4. This trio also hooked up for one of the best highlights of this young NBA season:
Moments later, Caruso picked up his sixth steal of the night and hit DeMar DeRozan for an alley-oop:
The Bulls got off to a strong start in this game, racing out to an early 11-point lead behind nine quick points from Nikola Vucevic, who finished with one of his best games of the season with 18/10/4 on 8-of-14 shooting. Jalen Brunson and the Mavericks’ bench provided a spark, though, turning the tide and taking a one-point lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter stayed close for a while, but the Bulls used a surge in the latter half of the frame to take a 61-54 lead into the break. Billy Donovan made a key decision to leave LaVine in with three fouls after he picked up his third midway through the quarter, and he scored 10 points in that back half of the second.
The Mavericks hung around for a chunk of the third quarter, but then Caruso took over. He scored 11 of his 16 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the third as a five-point lead turned into a 15-point advantage heading into the fourth thanks to a 12-2 run to end the quarter. Caruso scored eight of those points during the charge, and then he hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring in the fourth to give the Bulls their largest lead of the game at 18.
Chicago’s offense got a little sluggish in the final frame with just 22 points (quite a few DeRozan bricks), but there were just enough points scored and Dallas never got the margin back to single digits. Ayo Dosunmu had a rough game overall, but his 3-point answer after a bad mistake on his part helped lead to a Tim Hardaway Jr. 3 on the other end was a big shot to help stem the tide.
This was truly an outstanding team win. The starters dominated throughout (Javonte Green made some nice plays as well) and Caruso was a dynamo off the bench. DeRozan shot terribly (7-of-20) but had seven boards and six dimes. Derrick Jones Jr. and even Alize Johnson brought some nice energy off the bench with a combined six offensive rebounds. And while the Bulls’ defense let THJ free a few too many times (5-of-9 from 3), they did a nice job on Luka Doncic. Doncic almost had a triple-double with 20 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and four steals, but he only shot 6-of-18 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-land.
The Bulls now head out to the West Coast for a tough road trip with an 8-3 record (tied for tops in the East). First up is a national TV battle with the NBA-best Warriors on Friday night.