Nowitzki leads Mavericks past Bulls 122-116
By ANDREW SELIGMAN,
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) Dirk Nowitzki insists he has never played on such a talented team, not even when the Dallas Mavericks reached the NBA finals four years ago.
“The league’s also better,” Nowitzki said.
So he’s not making any championship guarantees no matter how good the Mavericks are looking at the moment.
Nowitzki scored 27 points, Rodrigue Beaubois and Caron Butler added 24 apiece and Dallas beat the Chicago Bulls 122-116 on Saturday night to extend its season-high win streak to 11 games.
Nowitzki scored 13 in the fourth quarter and the Mavericks hung on after watching a 14-point lead shrink to four, sending Chicago to its fourth straight loss.
Derrick Rose scored 34 points, but the Bulls simply couldn’t get the stops they needed. Dallas shot 56.3 percent and got 18 points from Shawn Marion to go with the big performances by Nowitzki, Butler and Beaubois, a late addition to the lineup after center Brendan Haywood was scratched with tightness in his lower back.
Beaubois, a rookie, has now set or tied career highs in three straight games after scoring 22 the previous night against Sacramento and 17 against Minnesota on Wednesday. He scored 18 in the third quarter as the Mavericks extended their lead to 94-80, and the Mavericks improved their longest streak since a 17-game run three years ago.
“He’s a talent,” said Jason Kidd, who had 15 assists and 11 rebounds. “He’s going to be a special player in this league. He’s a great student.”
And he has a great teacher running the point in Kidd.
“It’s incredible,” Beaubois said. “You know J-Kidd knows the game. He knows everything. He really has tried to help me, give me advice. I really appreciate it.”
The wins aren’t coming easily for the Mavericks during this run, with only two double-digit victories – by 10 over Phoenix and Orlando. And they couldn’t pull away from Chicago.
The Bulls made a push in the fourth quarter, starting it on a 14-4 run that included a jumper and two 3-pointers by Jannero Pargo, the second making it 98-94 with 7:59 remaining. Nowitzki then hit a fadeaway jumper, Butler nailed a 3 and the Mavericks hung on.
It was another difficult night for Chicago, which was playing the third of nine straight games against playoff contenders.
“The team needs to find a way to win games,” Rose said. “It is frustrating.”
The Bulls are missing Joakim Noah, their leading rebounder and defensive presence down low, but the Mavericks continued to win despite their aches and pains. Besides Haywood, they were also missing Jason Terry (facial surgery) and Erick Dampier (dislocated right middle finger).
Even so, they appeared to be in good shape before the Bulls made their move.
The Mavericks led 66-55 after scoring six unanswered points in the final 44 seconds of the first half, with Rose committing two turnovers and Brad Miller getting blocked underneath. Butler started the spurt with an 18 footer, and Beaubois converted a short jumper after rejecting Miller.
Kidd then fed Nowitzki for a layup that made it an 11-point game with 5.8 seconds remaining after picking off a pass by Rose, who immediately coughed the ball up again. This time, Marion got the steal but missed a 16-footer at the buzzer.
“We just couldn’t stop them at the other end,” Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich said. “Dallas is 43-21 for a reason. They play well together.”
And they might be better than ever.
Like Nowitzki, Kidd can’t remember playing on a team so talented.
“We’re loaded,” he said, “with guys who know how to put the ball in the basket. We all enjoy sharing the ball.”
NOTES: Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said the swelling in the left knee that has bothered Luol Deng lately has gone down a bit, and that Kirk Hinrich (sprained right ankle) is feeling better. … New Bears Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna received a standing ovation when they were introduced during a timeout midway through the first quarter. … Chicago shot 52.2 percent.
Updated March 7, 2010