The Dallas Mavericks, fresh off an excellent win over the L.A. Lakers, lost track of their offense once again and fell to the Chicago Bulls 82-77 on Thursday night. The Mavericks had an offensive efficiency of 129.6 against the Lakers, but just 91.1 against the Bulls. Chicago's defense is better than that of L.A., but not by that much.
Dirk Nowitzki struggled again as Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik held the former MVP to 6-16 shooting and just 19 points. Deng in particular was marvelous in Tom Thibodeau's smallball lineups, forcing Nowitzki, a master of tough shot, into impossible shots. While Deng didn't score much (seven points, all in the first quarter) he was a major factor, if not the major factor in the Bulls' win. I'm not sure anyone has ever overestimated Deng's value to the Bulls' No. 1 defense. Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett are so great defensively because they combine amazing physical attributes (size, length and athleticism) with knowledge and commitment. Deng does the same thing, much more quietly and at, perhaps, a more challenging position, given the current make-up of the league.
Dirk's teammates rarely fared better, with Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Terry each totaling 12 points, only Chandler shooting efficiently among them. Dallas' bench -- Terry, Brendan Haywood, Jose Barea and Shawn Marion -- shot a combined 8-28.
Of course, this was a close, contested game throughout, and the Mavericks' defense (combined with a still-weird Bulls offense) held Chicago's efficiency way down. Derrick Rose was the only Bull in double-figures, which is amazing. (Perhaps it's not surprising, given that Deng was limited by some pretty bad shooting. It's still amazing.) Rose scored 26, but he needed 28 field goal attempts and six free throws to get there. That's not good, and that the Bulls survived the Dallas defense shows just how incredible Chicago's resistance has been this season. Rose scored as much as his other four starters combined, the Chicago bench hardly fared better and ... the Bulls won, against a good team. Great defenses don't take nights off, and I think Chicago fits that definition right now.
Mavs Moneyball finds it a tough pill to swallow that Dallas' defensive effort has gone wasted. Blog-a-Bull credits Rose for squeezing out enough offense to keep Chicago in the win column.