The start of this game looked like one of those Western Conference mismatches the Bulls experienced early in the season.
They trailed Dallas by 16 points early in the second quarter Friday at the American Airlines Center. But the Bulls were determined to avenge a couple of tough losses to the Mavs. The defense got stronger as the game progressed and the Bulls rallied for an impressive 100-91 victory.
After starting the season losing nine of their first 10 games against the West, the Bulls are now 10-13 out of conference, including back-to-back wins over playoff contenders Golden State and Dallas.
Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Jimmy Butler added 19 points and 7 rebounds, Kirk Hinrich scored 17 and Mike Dunleavy 16. The Bulls (32-26) have won eight of their last nine overall.
"I thought Taj got us going a little bit in the first half with his post game," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the contest. "That established us inside. The third quarter I thought was OK, then I thought the fourth quarter was great."
Dallas (36-24) hit just 6 of 25 shots in the fourth quarter while scoring 15 points. Guard Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 20 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 15, but neither player shot well from the field.
The Bulls used a 10-0 run late in the second quarter, capped by 3-pointers from Hinrich and Butler, to close within 53-51. They finally took the lead at 72-71 on a Carlos Boozer layup with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth, 3-pointers by D.J. Augustin and Hinrich put the Bulls up 84-78 with 8:17 left. The Mavericks went ahead one last time on a steal and lay in by Ellis with 5:07 left. But Dunleavy answered with a 3-pointer that started a 10-0 run. Gibson finished a dunk off a pass from Joakim Noah, then Hinrich and Butler added jumpers.
Noah guarded Nowitzki for most of the night and played with five fouls over the final 3:34. Noah finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds, but did plenty of things that don't show up in the stats.
"You're going to get more than one effort from Jo," Thibodeau said. "The initial part is always going to be pretty good. But then you're going to get the second and third part -- the rebounding, the loose balls, the ability to get it out quick, get it up the floor."
The Bulls were beaten up thoroughly by the Mavericks in a 105-83 loss at the United Center on Dec. 28. There was an even tougher loss in Dallas late last season, when the Bulls squandered an 8-point lead in the final two minutes and lost on a Nowitzki 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left.
The Bulls appear set to sign guard Jimmer Fredette, who was released by Sacramento on Thursday. One thing that could prevent such a move is if a team claims Fredette off waivers -- which is unlikely, but possible. The waiver period will end this weekend.