DALLAS (AP)—Chalk up a bunch more milestones for the Baby Bulls.
Refreshed by several days off in Miami, youngsters Luol Deng, Eddy Curry, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich led Chicago past the Dallas Mavericks 107-100 Tuesday night, ending a three-game losing streak and sparking more connections to the franchise’s greatest era.
This was the Bulls’ 23rd victory, matching last season’s total and putting them over .500 (23-22) at the latest point in a season since Michael Jordan wore red, black and white.
Defeating Dallas also was something not done since Jordan’s days. Chicago had lost 13 straight to the Mavericks and hadn’t won in Dallas since Nov. 29, 1996.
“This is big,” said Deng, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds.
“Huge,” said Curry, who added 23 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Deng got rolling in the third quarter, scoring nine of the team’s 11 points when they turned a six-point deficit into a lead. Then Curry and Hinrich came through at key moments in the fourth quarter.
Curry put Chicago up for good on a dunk with 9:10 left. He made a sweet tip-in on a lob from Hinrich to give the Bulls their first 10-point lead, then kept it at 10 with a long jumper and again with a layup that made it 98-88 with 2:03 left.
Hinrich nailed a jumper with 1:06 to play after Dallas got within four and hit two free throws with 3.8 seconds left to snuff the Mavs’ final hopes. He finished with 12 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Gordon had 16 points, shooting 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. His 3s included ones to answer Nowitzki’s three- and four-point plays, and another at the third-quarter buzzer.
Tyson Chandler, another member of Chicago’s 24-and-under crowd, had eight points and 15 rebounds.
“This keeps our confidence high heading into the All-Star break,” Hinrich said.
The loss ruined Mavs coach Don Nelson’s return to the bench after a 10-game absence while having his right shoulder surgically repaired. It also kept him from tying Dick Motta for the most coaching wins in team history.
“My heart hurts, not my arm,” Nelson said.
Nelson had said he cared more about a win to help Dallas’ playoff seeding than he did about personal achievements. This loss certainly hurts the Mavs’ quest for the No. 4 seed in the West—as did previous home losses to East teams Detroit and Philadelphia without Allen Iverson.
“We shouldn’t be losing to these Eastern Conference teams,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “It’s something I didn’t think could happen. We’ve got to protect our home court better than that.”
Nowitzki, named an All-Star for the fourth straight season earlier Tuesday, led Dallas with 27 points but had only eight in the second half. He scored 14 in the second quarter, making a three-point play and a four-point play on consecutive possessions.
“The second half was frustrating,” he said. “Nothing was dropping.”
With sixth man Jerry Stackhouse out with a groin injury, the Mavericks had no second offensive threat—and just seven points from the reserves.
Terry scored 25, but 10 came after Curry put Chicago up by 10 in the closing minutes. Finley scored 16 points, but shot only 5-of-16.
Erick Dampier had 11 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double, but wasn’t enough of an inside presence. Chicago outrebounded Dallas 56-40 and outscored the Mavs by 12 in the paint. Nelson was so frustrated that he benched Dampier for Shawn Bradley with 2:53 left.
Josh Howard had 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals, but his boundless energy also led to two missed dunks—including one early in the third quarter that changed the game’s momentum. The Mavs would’ve gone up by eight had his breakaway slam gone through. Instead, Chicago began to rally and Dallas never led by that many again.
When Curry put the Bulls ahead for good, he celebrated by shouting and gesturing near the Mavs bench. He got a technical foul for taunting, but made up for it by hitting a free throw of his own.
Chicago last beat Dallas on Dec. 29, 1997. … With eight free throws, Nowitzki has 426 in 46 games, topping his total for all of last season (423). … Chicago never hit 100 points during its 13-game skid against the Mavs. … Nelson is now 328-245 over eight seasons. Motta went 329-409 over nine years, including the franchise’s first seven.