Friday, February 28, 2014
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Preview: Bulls at Mavericks

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[February 28, 2014]  A pair of teams surging toward the playoffs square off Friday when the Dallas Mavericks host the Chicago Bulls. The Mavericks have been one of the hottest teams in the league of late, winning 10 of their last 12 to move into sixth place in the Western Conference. The Bulls, who are a season-best five games above .500, have won seven of their last eight games and are 19-8 since the start of 2014.

Dallas hopes its climb has just begun the Mavericks, who are 19-9 at home, are just 3 1/2 games out of fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. "I think we are coming along at the right time," Mavericks guard Monta Ellis told reporters. "I think everybody is tuned in and accepting their role of what they need to do to help us win. The biggest thing is that everyone is playing together." The Bulls also have their eyes on home-court advantage in the first round, as they sit fourth in the East but are just a half-game behind third-place Toronto and 1 1/2 games ahead of fifth-place Washington.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, FSN Southwest (Dallas)


ABOUT THE BULLS (31-26): Chicago is the lowest-scoring team in the league at 92.9 points per game but is also one of the NBA's best defensive squads. The Bulls surprisingly have flourished since shipping leading scorer Luol Deng to Cleveland, in large part because Taj Gibson (13.2 points) has grown into a larger role, scoring in double figures in 17 of his last 18 games. The Bulls have started to put it together offensively of late, scoring 100 or more points in five of the last 10 contest after hitting triple digits only nine times in their first 47 games.

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ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (36-23): Dallas is a season-best 13 games above .500 and has been as efficient as ever on offense lately, averaging 113.8 points during a four-game winning streak. Leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki (21.6 points) is nursing a sore left shoulder that has plagued him from time to time throughout his career, but he still managed 18 points in Wednesday's 108-89 win over New Orleans and is not expected to miss any time. Nowitzki and Ellis (19 points) lead a dynamic offensive team that fared well in the first meeting with the Bulls this season, shooting 52.6 percent in a 105-83 win in Chicago.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Mavericks have won 13 of the past 15 meetings with the Bulls in Dallas.

2. The Bulls are 22-6 when holding opponents under 90 points, including a 13-1 mark since the start of the new year.

3. Ellis' next steal will be the 1,000th of his career and his next 3-pointer will be his 500th.

PREDICTION: Mavericks 98, Bulls 97

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