DALLAS — The Chicago Bulls keep leaning on their vaunted defense to win games. They did it again Friday night, shutting down the Dallas Mavericks’ high-powered offense after the first quarter and clawed back from a 16-point deficit to win 100-91 at American Airlines Center.
The Bulls (32-26) won for the eighth time in nine games and snapped the Mavericks’ four-game win streak just as Dallas prepares to start a brutal stretch of games on Sunday at San Antonio.
Dallas (36-24) raced to a 15-point lead in the first quarter, scoring 32 points and shooting 54.5 percent from the field. From there, though, Chicago buckled down, allowing 22 points in the second quarter, 22 in the third and just nine through the first 10:56 of the fourth quarter before forward Dirk Nowitzki scored on a putback.
Everything from there was inconsequential as the Bulls seized a 94-87 lead.
The Bulls were led by forward Taj Gibson’s 20 points and 15 rebounds. Guard Jimmy Butler had 19 points and seven rebounds. Center Joakim Noah, quiet most of the night, iced it with 42.6 seconds left for a 96-87 lead.
Noah’s best work, however, came in the fourth quarter defending Nowitzki, who finished with 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field. Noah stripped him on consecutive possessions, with the second turnover leading to a 3-pointer from guard Kirk Hinrich for an 84-78 Bulls lead.
Dallas reclaimed the lead at 85-84, but a 3-pointer from Bulls guard Mike Dunleavy and then a Noah-to-Gibson pass for a second-chance basket made it 89-85 with 3:49 left. Butler made it 91-85 on a post-up against guard Monta Ellis with 3:09 left.
The Mavs never could find a rhythm and finished the fourth quarter 6 of 25 from the field and 2 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Dallas led by 15 in the first quarter and 16 in the second, running at will against the Bulls for a 16-2 advantage in fast-break points in the first half. Dallas had just two fast-break points in the second half.
The Bulls started their push in the second quarter, clipping a 16-point deficit to three, 54-51, at halftime.
Dallas was paced by Ellis, who had 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field. Guard Vince Carter finished with 15 points and was 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. However, he went 4 of 5 from 3-point territory for 14 points in the first half.
NOTES: Dallas’ strong February against a light schedule turns more difficult in March with five of its next seven games against teams currently in position for the playoff, including San Antonio (Sunday), Golden State, Indiana, Portland and Oklahoma City. … Bulls C Joakim Noah is averaging 4.6 assists per game, which ranks him 27th in the NBA. At his current clip, Noah’s assists would be the most by a center in years (Brad Miller, 4.7 in 2005-06). … The Bulls were seeking revenge for a 105-83 beatdown by the Mavs in Chicago on Dec. 29. … Chicago F Taj Gibson, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, was joined on the floor by Dallas’ own Sixth Man candidate, 37-year-old Vince Carter, who entered the game having made a league-high 92 3-pointers off the bench this season.
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