CHICAGO – From the moment fans discovered point guard Luka Doncic wouldn’t be playing in Saturday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Chicago Bulls, the game lost some of its luster.


Without their best player available to orchestrate things, the Mavs were a mere shell of themselves and the Bulls raced to a relatively easy 144-115 victory at the United Center.

Doncic sat out the game with a right quadricep strain. Also sitting out were two energy players for the Mavs – forward Josh Green (right elbow strain) and forward Maxi Kleber (right foot soreness).

The absence of those three players and what they bring to the table seriously handcuffed what the Mavs were trying to accomplish against the Bulls. One night after suffering a painful 106-105 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Mavs just didn’t have much snap, crackle or pop in their offense against the Bulls.

The fact that the Mavs played a late game at home on Friday night against the Bucks – that game tipped off at 9 p.m. – likely had some of their players more fatigue than normal. Time after time, the Bulls appeared to be a step or two or three ahead of the Mavs.

“We’ve been bouncing around here,” coach Jason Kidd said. “It feels like we just played a game a couple of hours ago against Milwaukee.

“We get in here (to Chicago) at 4 (a.m.), but there’s no excuses. We’re professionals. We got to do a job. The schedule is the schedule and you’ve got to play it. We had guys out, so other guys had opportunities to get minutes.”

The Bulls led 24-6, 69-36 and eventually 78-47 with 57.5 seconds remaining in the first half. And when Ayo Dosunmu drained a three-pointer with 3:11 left in the third quarter, the Bulls had built a massive 105-72 lead.

KembaIt was that type of lopsided game for the Mavs, who were crippled without three of their best weapons.

“It’s always difficult when you miss key pieces,” said Christian Wood, who finished with 21 points and nine boards. “Maxi brings his defensive intensity, Josh has been energetic in recent games that we’ve been playing, and Luka is going to be Luka.

“It’s difficult, but it’s no excuses. I think we could have definitely made it a winnable game tonight, but no excuses. You can say we only had 12 hours of travel and were running on sleep. We just got to be better energy-wise and defensively.”

Spencer Dinwiddie also lamented the fact that the Mavs didn’t arrive at their Chicago hotel until 4 a.m. on the day of the game.

“Obviously, rough travel and all that stuff, so the excuses are banked in, including Luka missing,” said Dinwiddie, who contributed 27 points and eight assists. “But overall we’ve got to play defense.

“We scored 115, so clearly we gave ourselves a chance offensively. Obviously giving up 144 is abysmal.”

The loss was the second in a row for the Mavs and dropped their record to 13-13 on the season heading into a three-game homestand thatKemba starts Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Besides Dinwiddie and Wood, JaVale McGee popped in 18 points on 7-of-8 shots for the Mavs, rookie Jaden Hardy tossed in 15 points, and Tim Hardaway Jr. poured in 12 points.

“I thought McGee did a good job offensively for us, and defensively,” Kidd said. “He hasn’t been playing here of late.

“We thought tonight would be a great opportunity for him as a backup (center).”

Saturday also was a great opportunity for new Mavs point guard Kemba Walker to finally get some playing time. And he responded adequately with eight points and five assists in 20 minutes.

In fact, with his plus/minus of plus two, Walker and Reggie Bullock — with a plus/minus of plus three – were the only two Mavs with a positive plus/minus ratio.

“I thought Kemba did a good job of getting us organized on the offensive, and defensively trying to get guys organized,” Kidd said. “When you look, there was only two guys that were positive, and he was one of them – him and Reggie. So in a game like that, that’s almost impossible to do.”

SpencerStill, with the Bulls shooting a remarkable 63.5 percent from the field and a healthy 55.9 percent from three-point land, the Mavs know they didn’t put up enough resistance to flip this game in their favor.

“Sixty-four percent (from the field) and 56 percent (from three-point range), you’re not going to beat anybody,” Dinwiddie said. “This is the best players in the world.

“Obviously, credit to them for hitting shots, and some of their guys maybe hitting a couple of more shots than usual. But overall our defense has to be better.”

The contributions of Hardy also were noteworthy, as the rookie continues to provide a spark off the bench.

“He did a really good job,” Kidd said. “He’s going to make mistakes, but I thought offensively he was aggressive, he was trying to make plays for others and he was able to make a play for himself.

“He made the right decisions. Hopefully he can give us some more minutes as we go along.”

Chicago led 40-30 after the first quarter, 82-53 at the half and 113-85 after the third quarter. The 144 points are the most the prideful Mavs have allowed this season, as were the 82 points allowed in any half.

The odds, indeed, of winning were unceremoniously stacked against the Mavs.

“We had three of our top eight out tonight, and that was a good opportunity (for other players to shine),” Kidd said. “But when you give up 82 points in the first half, it’s going to be hard to beat anybody.

“But I like the way the guys competed there in the second half.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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