Poor play down stretch ruins strong Bulls effort in Dallas

The Bulls offered another example Wednesday of how their mix of players can work.

They did an impressive job of slowing down Mavericks star Luka Doncic. He averaged 39 points in the first three games, then scored just 18 against the Bulls.

But after holding a 2-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls fell apart down the stretch and lost 114-105, falling to 2-3 on the season.

There were a variety of issues in the final six minutes. The Bulls missed shots, committed costly turnovers, couldn't secure defensive rebounds and watched Dallas hit backbreaking 3s as the game slipped away.

Mostly, though, they couldn't score with the game on the line. Then while Doncic stayed quiet, the Mavericks got a variety of contributors to put the game away. Dallas had a 7-2 edge in 3-point baskets during the fourth quarter.

Center Nikola Vucevic had a nice performance, finishing with 21 points and 20 rebounds, his first 20-20 game in a Bulls uniform. Zach LaVine scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half, while DeMar DeRozan finished with 16 points and 7 assists.

The Bulls led 96-94 with just under six minutes left, but following a time out, Dallas went on a 5-0 run. LaVine missed a driving lay in, then Coby White lost the ball out of bounds. Later, Alex Caruso turnover on cross-court pass attempt. Down by 1, the Bulls gave up an offensive rebound and two free throws to Grant Williams to make it 101-98.

A short jumper in the lane by Vucevic kept the Bulls close at 103-100, but 3-pointers by Dallas' Jaden Hardy, Williams and Josh put the game away.

Williams, the former Celtics big man, led Dallas with 25 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 24 points while hitting 7 of 13 shots from 3-point range.

None of the Bulls' go-to players stepped up in the final six minutes. But Doncic was also quiet and he had teammates step up to hit big shots.

Another issue was getting to the foul line. The Bulls hit just 10 of 11 free throws, while Dallas was 20 for 28.

With two free throws late in the third quarter, DeRozan officially passed Larry Bird for 39th place in the NBA's all-time scoring list. It's a very impressive achievement to surpass the NBA legend, even though Bird played in 139 fewer regular season games.

If he can produce his typical scoring output this season, DeRozan should pass Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler, Elgin Baylor, Dwyane Wade and Adrian Dantley by April. Finishing in the top 10 all-time is possible.

LaVine was feeling it in the first half, hitting his first five 3-point attempts of the games and scoring 17 points by intermission. DeRozan took over in the third quarter, scoring 10 points.

Dallas was 3-0 heading in, but playing without guard Kyrie Irving, who missed his second game with a left foot sprain. The Bulls had to be wary of the Derrick Jones Jr. revenge game. Their former teammate scored 22 points and hit 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range in the Mavs' previous outing against Memphis. He scored 17 points against the Bulls.

It's early in the season and the sample size is small, but the Mavericks started the night as the league's second-highest scoring team at 125.3 points per game.

Former Bulls center Tyson Chandler was at the game, sitting courtside next to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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