Bulls hold on to beat Mavericks but suffer setback in Tank-athon

SHARE Bulls hold on to beat Mavericks but suffer setback in Tank-athon
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DALLAS — Friday was a huge night for Kris Dunn and his teammates.

But another blow to the Bulls’ front office.

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Thanks to Dunn’s career-high 32 points and nine assists, the Bulls outlasted the Mavericks 127-124 for their 11th win in the last 16 games.

It was the kind of game coach Fred Hoiberg expected from Dunn after a season-worst two-point performance against the Raptors.

But it was the type of game general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson wouldn’t have minded losing.

Like the Bulls, the Mavericks are one of those franchises that seems to be focused on draft-lottery balls.

After the showdown at the American Airlines Arena, the 13-27 Mavs are in a better lottery position than the Bulls (14-25).

But Dunn and his teammates aren’t concerned with that aspect.

“I had a really good talk with Kris before the game,’’ Hoiberg said.

“I brought him in my office and said, ‘Listen, I’m going to start giving you some added responsibility. You’re becoming a guy that as you go, we go, and I’m going to let you control the offense a little bit.’ ’’

Dunn proceeded to become the first Bulls point guard to score 30-plus points since Derrick Rose.

“Coach felt like he had more trust in me,’’ Dunn said. “He said how the game’s going, call the plays you see out there. If someone is rolling, get them more into their actions and call their plays out.

“Just watching a lot of film, and we go through all our plays every day. Coach believed in me, so I just tried to see how the game was going. I appreciate Coach for having that trust in me.’’

Hoiberg did have his tense moments, however, as the Bulls held a 10-point lead with 1:08 left but did everything possible to throw it away.

The Mavs had a last-second, game-tying three-point attempt, but Yogi Ferrell missed the 25-foot prayer at the horn.

“That’s exactly how we wanted to close it,’’ Hoiberg said sarcastically. “Obviously, we’d like to close it better than that.’’

Amid all the talk of tanking by both organizations, all eyes were on two of the more coveted rookies in this season’s class.

And Lauri Markkanen got the slight nod over Dennis Smith Jr. The Bulls’ 7-footer finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Smith had 15 points, 10 in the fourth quarter.

“I think it’s an unbelievable class,’’ Hoiberg said of the rookies this season. “It really bodes well for the future of our league. And there are so many different dynamics.

‘‘Ben Simmons, with what he can do, will be a triple-double machine his entire career. Donovan Mitchell is having an unbelievable year, Dennis Smith, [Jayson] Tatum. You look at some of the guys early who weren’t making big impacts, but [Frank] Ntilikina at New York now is really playing well, Lonzo [Ball], Kyle Kuzma.

“But I’d put Lauri up with any of them. We wouldn’t trade him for anybody.

‘‘He continues to get better and better. He has great instincts. He has athleticism. And the best thing about him is he has no fear.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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