Derrick Rose is supposed to be back from his latest injury, but Jimmy Butler's presence on the court is much more important to the Chicago Bulls.
Butler looks to build on the best performance of his career Friday night when the Bulls face the Dallas Mavericks.
Rose has missed six games this season due to various injuries, an improvement after he sat out 31 in 2014-15.
Chicago (23-15), though, is 5-1 without the former NBA MVP mostly because of Butler. The guard is averaging 34.3 points and 6.2 assists while hitting 51.9 percent from the floor in games without Rose.
Butler, who has started every game this season, willed the Bulls to Thursday's 115-111 overtime win at Philadelphia, erasing a 24-point deficit while Rose nursed a sprained knee. He had a career-high and NBA season high-tying 53 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals while no other Bull scored more than 17.
“That's as good of a performance as I've seen,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The guys hopped on his shoulders and he carried us home. Play after play, it was an unbelievable performance.”
Butler, however, struggled in a 118-111 loss at Dallas on Dec. 26, scoring 17 points with five turnovers while shooting 4 of 11. He totaled 43 points over the two previous matchups, which the teams split.
Rose had one of his best performances of the season against the Mavericks (22-18) in December, connecting on 12 of 20 shots to finish with 25 points.
Pau Gasol chipped in 18 in that matchup, and he had 29 with 14 boards in a 132-129 double-OT loss in the most recent meeting at United Center. The forward should be fresh for this one since he was given the day off Thursday.
The Mavericks are on the cusp of matching their season-high three-game slide from Nov. 22-25, but having their full compliment of starters back should make a difference.
A day after falling 110-107 in overtime to Cleveland on Tuesday, coach Rick Carlisle rested all of his starters and Dallas shot 39.0 percent from the floor – 6 for 31 from beyond the arc – in a 108-89 loss at Oklahoma City.
Salah Mejri, however, may have earned more playing time after totaling 17 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. The center, a native of Tunisia, logged 19 minutes while collecting five boards over the first five games of his NBA career.
“He's been working hard with our developmental people,” Carlisle said. “He's been practicing hard. The work paid off. He had a really good night offensively. He rebounded the ball. He showed that he's in shape and that he's ready. Very positive sign.”
Carlisle is expected to have Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams and Zaza Pachulia back.
Parsons and Pachulia keyed the Mavs against Chicago last month. Parsons had 20 points with five assists and five rebounds, while Pachulia scored 17 and pulled down 12 off the glass as Dallas outscored the Bulls 30-19 in second-chance points and 28-11 in points off turnovers.
Parsons has averaged 21.0 points over the last three meetings with the Bulls.
Nowitzki has 20.8 points per game over his last nine on the road, and he had 22 while grabbing 14 boards in the most recent visit to Chicago.
The forward's next game will tie him with Elvin Hayes for 15th on the NBA's all-time games played list at 1,303. Only 17 players have played in 1,300 or more NBA games.