True Test: Mavericks Look to Prove Recent Success Against Bulls

Jalen Brunson

Getty Jalen Brunson drives to the rim against Lonzo Ball of the Chicago Bulls.

The Dallas Mavericks are playing perhaps the best basketball they have all season. They’re currently on a five-game winning streak, but are also winners in six of their last seven contests. 

Defense has been key for the Mavs over this five game stretch, as they hold the NBA’s best defensive rating over this span. At 94.8 over the past five games, Dallas has completely shut teams out. 

With that in mind, some of these games have been against teams that the Mavs were heavy favorites in. While wins over the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets were impressive, they also have recently matched up against the Sacramento Kings, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. 

On Sunday, the Mavericks will face their toughest test in quite some time as the Chicago Bulls come to town. The Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the entire NBA, winners in nine consecutive games. 

Two-Headed Scoring Attack

Chicago has the best record in the entire Eastern Conference at 26-10 to this point. The Bulls’ success this season has been largely due to the spectacular play of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. 

A dominant two-headed scoring attack, they’re both playing at an All-Star level this season. One of the most deadly duos in the entire league, DeRozan and LaVine on average combine for 52.9 points per game. 

For opposing defenses, it’s nearly impossible to slow them down. They have very complimentary skillsets on the offensive end of the floor that allow the Bulls to score effectively at every level. 

If the Mavs are going to have success against the Bulls in this matchup, their recently improved defense will need to start by slowing those two down. While it’s not possible to completely shut down DeRozan and LaVine, forcing them to take tough shots and lean on their teammates could lead to success. 

Even then, Chicago is extremely well-rounded and deep at all positions, which is why they’ve been so consistent this season. 

Additional Depth

Outside of DeRozan and LaVine, the Bulls also have other All-Star level talent. For starters, they’ve got a versatile big in Nikola Vucevic, who made the NBA All-Star team last season. 

Through 29 games this season adjusting to a new role, he’s averaged 15.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per contest while 34.3% from deep. Against a team like Dallas that lacks a dominant center, Vucevic could someone to keep an eye on. 

In terms of playmaking, the Bulls acquired Lonzo Ball during the offseason, who’s one of the best young passers and facilitators in the NBA. A starter for Chicago this season, he’s produced 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season. With those assist numbers, he leads the team. 

GettyLonzo Ball

Additionally, Ball is solid defensively and makes things difficult on the perimeter for opposing offenses. Against Dallas, he’ll be someone that spends quite a bit of time on the Mavs’ high-scoring guards. 

Along with Vucevic and Ball, guys like Coby White, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu round out the rotation and make a huge impact. 

Luckily for Dallas, Caruso will miss Sunday’s contest meaning the Bulls will be without one of their best bench players. 

On the flip side, Kristaps Porzingis will be out for the Mavericks while Luka Doncic will make his return following an ankle injury. Alongside Doncic, Jalen Brunson will need to have a huge game if Dallas is going to pull off a victory. 

If the Mavs win this game, they’ll have perhaps the most momentum of any team in the NBA while continuing their win streak. This will be one of their toughest tests of the season yet. 

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