CHICAGO – While being very mindful of their long-range goals of reaching the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks were able to cross another item off of their to-do list on Monday night.
Putting on a well-crafted defensive performance for the second straight game, the Mavs defeated the Chicago Bulls, 103-98, before a crowd of 19,012 at the United Center. It was the first road win of the season – against six losses – for the Mavs and also increased their won-loss record to 5-8.
In addition, this is the second time this season the Mavs have carved out a two-game winning streak. And it all started with their defense as the Mavs helped the Bulls to 39.3 percent shooting, forced them into missing 25 of the 33 shots they hoisted from 3-point territory, and held an opponent under 100 points for the second consecutive game.
“I thought the concentration was good, I thought our toughness was there,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Chicago’s down a few good players, so that certainly is a little bit of a factor in it, but this is always a tough place to play.
“They’ve got a team that plays hard regardless of who’s out there. It’s two games in a row, which is good. It means our defense is trending in the right direction, so we just got to keep building on it.”
The Mavs won despite one of the better defenders, Wesley Matthews, staying home to rest his strained left hamstring. Dorian Finney-Smith started in Matthews’ spot and delivered his own brand of hard-nosed defense while forcing Zach LeVine to take 23 shots – and needing 10 made free throws – to reach 26 points.
“It was great team defense, honestly,” Finney-Smith said. “I just tried to contest every shot and make it hard for them.
“They’re great players, so all you can do is contest every shot. I feel like I ran them off the (3-point) line, tried not to let them get a lot of threes on us and shoot a lot of contested twos.”
Some timely shots down the stretch by Dennis Smith Jr. helped keep the Bulls at bay. Smith was scoreless in the first half as he missed all four of his field goal attempts, but he came to life in the second half when he was 5-of-8 from the field and tallied 11 points.
“(DeAndre Jordan) did a good job of setting some screens and getting me open,” Smith said, “and I was able to knock down the shots.”
From Carlisle’s standpoint, Smith was very critical in the Mavs sweeping the season series form the Bulls for the third time in four years.
“In the second half I thought Smith got us going,” Carlisle said. “He was able to get a strip and went down coast to coast and scored, and he made huge plays in the second half.
“As tough a go as he had in the first half, he was probably the guy that saved the game for us in the end, which was great to see because being a young guy in this league is all about responding to difficult situations.”
While Smith found his rhythm in the second half, Harrison Barnes drilled a pair of free throws and a floater to boost the Mavs’ lead to 99-90 with 1:53 remaining in the game. Barnes led the Mavs with 21 points and five rebounds, but acknowledged that the Mavs’ focus on defense that enabled them to corral the Bulls.
“Without Wes we knew this was going to be a tough game, but I thought everyone stepped up and did a good job,” Barnes said. “I thought we did a great job all night of making them work, and I thought Dorian did a great job on Levine.”
Led by J. J. Barea (14 points), Maxi Kleber (12 points) and Dwight Powell (11 points), the Mavs’ reserves outscored the Bulls’ reserves, 46-26. And with Jordan snatching a game-high 16 rebounds, the Mavs won the rebounding battle, 49-45.
Also, the Mavs won a night when their leading scorer, Luka Doncic, struggled finding his shot. Doncic was just 3-of-12 from the floor and tallied 11 points.
In the end, the Mavs covered for one another and jetted back home with a smile on their face.
“I think everybody did a great job,” Barea said. “We got our first road win and have won two games in a row and we’re playing solid defense.
“We just got to use this as motivation and keep playing good and keep getting some wins. Any time you win on the road it’s always good, so hopefully we like this winning stuff and we keep doing it.”
NOTES: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had high praise for center DeAndre Jordan on Monday night. “DeAndre been great for us,” Carlisle said. “He’s a charismatic guy that’s doing everything possible to bring our team together. I’m so proud that he chose to come to Dallas. He’s changed the way things are going on around the basket. We’re the No. 1 team in defensive rebounding percentage now and we’re top five in least points in the paint allowed, so he’s made a huge difference for us.”. .Had things somehow turned out differently, coach Rick Carlisle said the Mavs may have selected Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. in last June’s NBA Draft. “We loved him in the draft,” Carlisle said. “If we had stayed at five he would have been the guy we would have taken — assuming he would have been there. He had a great workout with us. I see him as another coming of an Al Horford type player. He blocks shots, he rebounds. He affects the game in multiple ways.” Carter was drafted No. 7 overall by the Bulls. The Mavs drafted Oklahoma guard Trae Young with the fifth overall pick and traded his draft rights to the Atlanta Hawks for the draft rights to Slovenian guard/forward Luka Doncic. The Hawks drafted Doncic third overall. . .Guard Jalen Brunson’s high school coaches and administrators attended Monday’s game. Brunson played high school ball near Chicago at Stevenson High School. “It’s fun to come home,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a meaningful thing. He’s just been real consistent, he’s played multiple positions, he’s defended well, he’s made plays and he’s learned an awful lot since he got drafted by us. I’m real encouraged by everything that’s going on with him.” Brunson said he used to be a part-time ball boy for the Chicago Bulls when his dad, Rick Brunson, played for the Bulls during the 2002-’03 and ’03-’04 seasons. . .The Mavs open a two-game home stand on Wednesday when they host the Utah Jazz. The home stand concludes with Saturday’s game against the world champion Golden State Warriors before the Mavs hit the road to play the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 19.