Things haven't come easy so far for the Dallas Mavericks or the Chicago Bulls, with each feeling the effects of being without a former league MVP.
The Bulls looked particularly lost down the stretch of their latest defeat.
After blowing a 27-point lead, Chicago looks to get back on track Wednesday night when it continues a four-game homestand against the equally inconsistent Mavericks.
It's no surprise the Bulls (6-7) and Dallas (7-8) have had their issues early in the season with both Derrick Rose and Dirk Nowitzki yet to suit up, but Chicago's worst moment yet came Monday. Up 27 with 2:49 left in the third quarter, the Bulls were outscored 42-14 the rest of the way in a 93-92 home loss to Milwaukee.
Chicago fell to 3-4 at the United Center this season after going 26-7 on its home court a year ago - including 12-5 without Rose.
"You've got to play 48 minutes in this league, and we've still got a long ways to go in that area," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It can happen fast. You can lose 10 points in an NBA game in a minute. Everyone says that doesn't happen, but you see it all the time. If you don't play tough with a lead, this is what happens."
Now, they're facing a potential three-game slide at the United Center for the first time since dropping five in a row from March 1-19, 2010.
The Nowitzki-less Mavericks surely empathize with the Bulls, who also have only once strung together consecutive wins through the first month of the season. They'll be trying to avoid a third straight loss in this contest after falling 100-98 at Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Dallas had a chance to tie the score on a pair of O.J. Mayo free throws with 2.7 seconds left, but the Mavericks' leading scorer (20.8 points per game) missed both. Jae Crowder got an offensive rebound, but missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to seal Dallas' seventh loss in 10 games.
The Mavs did plenty to put themselves in poor position prior to the end, though. They committed eight of their 15 turnovers in the fourth quarter, with five coming on consecutive possessions.
"They were untimely and completely out of character to how we played to that point," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We have to eliminate those turnovers right now."
Dallas, which on Tuesday began a stretch of eight of 10 on the road, fell to 2-5 away from American Airlines Center
Mayo is having problems as a visitor, averaging 16.9 points on 42.7 percent shooting compared to 24.3 points and 52.2 percent shooting at home. He scored a season-low 11 points while dishing out seven assists against the 76ers.
Mayo averaged 5.0 points and missed 12 of his 16 field-goal attempts while coming off the Memphis bench in a pair of games against Chicago last season.
The Mavericks, who are averaging nearly 10 points fewer on the road (95.4) compared to at home (105.3), might have trouble reversing those woes Wednesday. They've lost three in a row to Chicago while averaging 81.0 points.
Richard Hamilton had 19 points in a 93-83 Bulls home victory April 21.
Hamilton missed the potential game-winning jumper Monday but scored a season-high 30 points - topping his previous high of 22 from two days earlier.
Carlos Boozer is also trying to build on a pair of strong showings, totaling 41 points and 30 rebounds while sinking 19 of 34 field goals.
Boozer has only been available for one of three matchups with Dallas since joining the Bulls, but Chicago has dominated the glass anyway. The Bulls have outrebounded the Mavs by an average of 52.0-39.3 in those meetings.
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