NBA schedule put Mavericks against ropes, but Bulls knocked them out

Dallas head coach Jason Kidd knew his team was in for it with a 9 p.m. tip on Friday, a 4 a.m. arrival into Chicago, and missing MVP-candidate Luka Doncic. The Bulls aided in that process, however, jumping on the visiting team right away, and never letting them breath in a record-setting performance for the franchise.

SHARE NBA schedule put Mavericks against ropes, but Bulls knocked them out
Derrick Jones Jr.

Every NBA team has a few schedule losses in a season.

Whether it’s the second game of a back-to-back or a game after a long flight with an early tipoff time, there are instances where the schedule seems to stare down at a team and say, ‘‘It’s not happening tonight.’’

All the ingredients were in place for the Mavericks to have one of those Saturday: a 9 p.m. tipoff time in a home loss Friday to the Bucks on ESPN, a 4 a.m. arrival into Chicago and star guard Luka Doncic (strained quad) unavailable.

The Bulls, however, had something different in mind. Forget handing the Mavericks a schedule loss; this was a full-scale 144-115 beatdown.

‘‘We wish this was baseball at spring training so we could have a split-squad and send half the squad up to Chicago,’’ Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said before the game. ‘‘They’ve got to look at this because this isn’t right. I understand TV comes first; they pay the bills. But we could have played [the Bucks] at 7 or 7:30.

‘‘We got a doubleheader. Somebody thought it was a great idea. So that’s why we’re playing it.’’

‘‘Playing it’’ was a bit strong. The Mavericks showed up, but the playing part was debatable.

Credit the Bulls (11-14) for that and for taking care of business right away, rather than sleepwalking in the first quarter like they have done far too often this season.

If the game plan was to run the lethargic Mavericks right from the tip, coach Billy Donovan’s bunch got that message loud and clear.

After an alley-oop dunk by the Mavericks’ Dwight Powell to start the game, the Bulls quickly made it feel like a scrimmage between the varsity and junior varsity, thanks to Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vucevic each making a three-pointer to get them going. LaVine scored 11 of 22 points during one stretch to help the Bulls open a 28-10 lead.

By the time the first quarter ended, the Bulls led 40-30 and were just getting warmed up.

Veterans DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond then got it going, leading to an even bigger margin. By the time the teams headed to their locker rooms at halftime, the Bulls led 82-53.

‘‘I think it was important that we just focused on us,’’ Williams said. ‘‘We wanted to come out how we needed to come out.’’

The 82 points were a franchise record for a first half, breaking by one the previous mark set April 14, 2007, against the Bucks. The most points the Bulls have scored in a half is 86.

And pretty much everybody got in on the act. DeRozan had 17 points, Vucevic 16, LaVine 13 and Williams 12. Even more impressive, the Bulls’ 29-for-44 shooting (65.9%) in the half was aided by 21 assists.

It was a basketball clinic not previously seen by this group, which did it on both ends of the court.

‘‘Clearly, they had a tough game against Milwaukee and then a tough time getting here,’’ Donovan said of the Mavericks. ‘‘For us, I thought we generated good shots, moved the ball. . . . I think there’s always things you can take from these games.’’

When the final horn sounded, seven Bulls had scored in double figures and the team had established season highs in three-pointers with 19 and assists with 35.

The Mavericks sending a split-squad might have been a good idea after all.

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