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Bulls hang on to big lead this time

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO - The Chicago Bulls already proved they could build a big lead. On Wednesday at the United Center, they were able to hang on for an easy 101-78 win over Dallas.

Two days earlier, the Bulls led Milwaukee by 27 points late in the third quarter and gave it all back in a stunning 93-92 loss.

Luol Deng led Chicago with 22 points, one of five players who scored in double-figures on Wednesday. Shawn Marion topped the Mavericks with 18 points.

"The bench was great. The starters got us off to a good start," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We needed everybody. Overall, I thought we played a lot tougher with the lead."

After building a 58-42 advantage at halftime, the Bulls never gave their fans much reason to worry. Dallas never got closer than 14 points in the second half. It probably helped that the Mavs played in Philadelphia on Tuesday, while Chicago had a day off to think about the ugly loss to Milwaukee.

The Bulls led 77-58 after three quarters and kept rolling, Their lead peaked at 29 points late in the fourth.

The Mavericks played without point guard Darren Collison, who was out with a sprained right middle finger. After the game, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle announced the team plans to sign veteran point guard Derek Fisher on Thursday, pending a physical. Fisher, 38, finished last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"I think he can really help our situation with his experience, I think, defensively and really all areas of the game," Carlisle said. "Collison jammed his finger last night and I found out really right before we turned in the active sheet. Right now, the point guard position is a challenge for us. I think Derek can help us."

A popular topic of conversation in Chicago the past few days has been the use of the bench, or lack of it. Deng and Joakim Noah rank 1-2 in the league in minutes played, while Thibodeau used just eight players in the ugly loss to Milwaukee.

That changed quickly against Dallas, as guard Marco Belinelli and center Nazr Mohammed checked in early in the second quarter. Neither player was used at all against the Bucks. Belinelli knocked down his first shot attempt, a 3-pointer, and finished with 11 points. Guard Nate Robinson scored 14 points off the bench, while Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 13 points.

"I think, yeah, we were angry," Chicago forward Taj Gibson said. "We've got to take care of these games that we're supposed to win. We've got a lot of guys that take pride in wearing the Bulls logo. So getting this one tonight was real special."

The Mavericks got off to a quick start, jumping to a 19-11 lead in the first quarter after a 3-pointer by Troy Murphy. The Bulls turned it around quickly, though, launching a 38-11 run to take a 19-point lead with 4:16 left in the first half.

"We figured they would be tough tonight and bothered by losing that big lead," Dallas center Chris Kaman said. "This Maverick team is capable of beating them. We just didn't play well tonight."

Two days earlier, the Bulls were on the wrong end of a 31-4 run and lost a 27-point lead against Milwaukee in just eight minutes.

NOTES: The Bulls and Mavericks have a significant trait in common -- an all-star on the sideline. Chicago guard Derrick Rose is recovering from ACL surgery, while Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki is expected to be out until mid-December with a knee injury. "It's tough," Carlisle said before the game. "The hope is, when you come through it, you've got guys who were put in situations where they've had to step up and be out of their comfort zone and do a little more." ... Dallas started Dominique Jones and O.J. Mayo, neither a true point guard, in the backcourt. ... Dallas owner Mark Cuban sat courtside near the visiting bench, a spot normally occupied by Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.
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