Bulls overcome big day from Doncic to beat Dallas
This is life in the NBA, 2021-style.
The Bulls played the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday for the second time in two weeks. The Mavs used two completely different starting lineups in the two games. Only three Mavericks played at least 10 minutes in both games -- Trey Burke, Willie Cauley-Stein and one-time Bulls first-round pick James Johnson.
So even though Luka Doncic delivered a monstrous performance, with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists, the Bulls' superior depth paved the way for a relatively smooth 117-101 victory. The win helped erase some of the bad vibes from Friday's late collapse in Oklahoma City.
Dallas got off to a quick start, but the game changed when substitutions began. The Bulls opened a 19-point lead late in the second quarter and it never dipped below 9 points the rest of the way.
Lauri Markkanen scored a season-high 29 points, then the next three leading scorers were the veteran subs -- Garrett Temple had 21, Thad Young 15 and Otto Porter 14.
Markkanen played well in the first three games of the season, but was sidelined for the next seven because of contact tracing and NBA safety guidelines. So he was glad to put up good numbers in his second game back.
"Conditioning-wise I felt pretty good," Markkanen said after the game. "I think it was the third (quarter) when I checked in, and it felt like it was 20 seconds and I was gassed. Other than that little stretch, I was pretty good."
Zach LaVine cooled off after scoring at least 32 points in the previous four games. He and Coby White shot a combined 1-for-13 from the field. LaVine finished with 10 points and 10 assists, while White was scoreless with 4 assists.
For the first time since the rebuild began, the Bulls have enough veterans to help make a difference. Temple, 34, has been a pleasant surprise this season. He missed all of training camp after contracting the coronavirus, but has fit right in with the 10th different team of his NBA career.
"To miss training camp was tough," Temple said. "I think my experience of being on 10-day contracts, jumping from team to team my first couple years in the league, being that journeyman guy, it's allowed me to adaptable and understand how to get to know guys quickly and fit in quickly in terms of a camaraderie standpoint."
It's been an interesting mix for the Bulls so far. Coach Billy Donovan has continued to start five young players, including rookie Patrick Williams, while bringing Temple, Young and Porter off the bench. They should have another veteran available soon when Tomas Satoransky is cleared after a positive COVID test.
"The first game I played, we got the bench together before the tip-off, I told the bench, 'We can be the best bench in the league because of the experience, the talent we have,'" Temple said. "Our team is going to need the bench to play well because we have such a young unit and there's going to be times where we have to help them out."
Markkanen and Dallas' Kristaps Porzingis are familiar with each other, as two 7-footers from Northern Europe -- Markkanen from Finland and Porzingis from Latvia.
But the Bulls hadn't played against Porzingis since Jan. 10, 2018 at Madison Square Garden when Porzingis played for the Knicks. That night, Markkanen tallied 33 points, the highest-scoring game of his rookie season.
A few weeks later, Porzingis tore his ACL, missed all of the 2018-19 season, then sat out both Dallas-Bulls games last year.
"It's always great to play against him," Markkanen said. "He's a good dude. Obviously it's fun to compete. He's one of the better power forwards we have, and obviously I'm happy he's back on the floor and I got to compete against him. It's always fun."
The Bulls are back in action Monday against Houston at the United Center. Former Pacers star Victor Oladipo is expected to make his Rockets debut.
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