With their victory that ended the second-longest winning streak in NBA history, the short-handed Chicago Bulls proved they still have enough to play with any team in the league.
Now they're hoping to carry over that momentum and win a season-high fourth straight Saturday when they visit the Dallas Mavericks.
While the Bulls clinched a playoff berth by beating the league's top team, the Heat ended up six wins shy of the 33-game record streak held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.
What made the victory more astonishing is that the Bulls were not only missing Derrick Rose (knee) despite rumors he might play, but they also were without Joakim Noah (right foot), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) and Richard Hamilton (lower back).
"It's all about what we think in the locker room," forward Taj Gibson said. "A lot of people kind of write us off every other day, but we just stick to our principles and do what we have to do."
Chicago has gotten used to being short-handed and that's likely to be the case again Saturday, though Noah and Belinelli are expected to be game-time decisions. Jimmy Butler has stepped up to average 18.5 points starting the last two games for Belinelli. To help make up for the absence of Noah, who has missed the past three games, Boozer has posted four straight double-doubles.
Without Rose all season, the Bulls have yet to win more than three consecutive games, though they can change that Saturday if they beat Dallas for a fifth straight time.
While Chicago tries to catch Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round, Dallas (35-37) would just be happy to make the postseason. The Mavericks are 10th in the West, 1 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot.
They lost 101-78 at Chicago on Nov. 28 as Deng scored a team-high 22, though he's averaged 9.3 points on 29.4 percent shooting in his last three games in Dallas.
Chicago held a 44-30 advantage on the boards in the first meeting and ranks near the top of the NBA with a plus-2.4 rebounding differential.
That's likely to be an area of concern for the Mavericks since they're near the bottom of the league at minus-3.4 after getting outrebounded by 21 in a 103-78 home loss to Indiana on Thursday.
"It was a wipeout for us as far as the rebounding," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's been a challenge for us."
Dirk Nowitzki will try to help the Mavericks bounce back after finishing with a team-high 21 points Thursday, two nights after scoring a season-best 33 in a win over the Clippers. He missed the first matchup with Chicago following preseason knee surgery, but he's averaged 35.3 points in the Bulls' last three visits to Dallas.
Chicago hasn't played there since Nov. 19, 2010, when the Mavs lost 88-83. Dallas had won 12 of 13 at home in the series.
The Bulls, allowing 92.4 points per game to rank third in the league, are one of only three teams to hold the Mavs under 80 points this season. Dallas, 0-15 this season when failing to score 92, has been held below 85 points in every matchup during its four-game losing streak in this series.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dallas Mavericks
- Chicago Bulls
- Marco Belinelli
- Joakim Noah