There would be no comeback in this one.
The Bulls built a 19-point lead in the first half – thanks in part to the effort of the reserves, most who didn’t play in Monday night’s disappointing loss to Milwaukee—and were able to extend their lead to defeat the weary Dallas Mavericks 101-78.
The bench outscored the Mavericks reserves 50-34, a stark contrast to Monday night when they totaled 10 and only three reserves saw the floor.
Luol Deng led the way with 22 points, even playing only 34 minutes. Joakim Noah notched his sixth double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, to go along with three blocks. Nate Robinson scored 14 points and Jimmy Butler contributed a career-high 13 points, including career highs in free throws attempted and made, finishing 9-of-10.
Even Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague were able to see the floor.
“The bench was great,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The starters got us off to a good start. We needed everybody. I thought the defense was very good, rebounding good, still gotta get our turnovers down. Overall, I thought we played a lot tougher with the lead.”
While it’s only one game – and Thibodeau even mentioned the fact that they caught a break with the Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back and without the services of starting point guard Darren Collison and a banged up O.J. Mayo – it has to be a great confidence booster for a team that has had its depth question, even if it’s unfairly to the reserve unit of the last two seasons.
“I don’t think any of them were happy sitting down the last game,” said Deng. “They were great tonight and we just have to keep on getting better.”
The Bulls made short work of the Mavericks, limiting to just 34 percent shooting and outrebounding them 44-30.
The team has faced questions about its rotation and bench all season long, even more so after Monday’s loss to Milwaukee. But the theme continues to be patience as they’re still trying to figure one another out.
“It’s so early,” said Nazr Mohammed, who hadn’t played the previous three games. “It’s too early to even start thinking you’re in the rotation or out the rotation. We’re still trying to figure out what guys do well, what certain things guys don’t do well, trying to get chemistry. Just sit back, wait your turn, work hard and be prepared.”
It was a great bounce back win for the Bulls, in which they hope to build some momentum from.
Whether we see this balanced of a rotation again depends on their performance.
Aside from the 21 turnovers, it appears that the bench is starting to find some comfort with their roles and committing more to defense.
“I think we just have to keep doing what we do every day, just stay confident,” said Butler. “Everybody is not going to have a great night every day, but not get down on ourselves. And I feel like that’s what we’re doing and everybody is picking each other up. So that makes it easier for our bench.”