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If this only were horseshoes or hand grenades instead of more horsefeathers and blown assignments
Then the Bulls wouldn't have lost 94-93 Monday night to the Dallas Mavericks on Michael Finley's jumper with 3.2 seconds remaining. "We're actually trying to win," said Bulls coach Scott Skiles when asked about the positives in a close loss to a good team.
"We think we should win. We made mistakes that are not NBA-winning-type things you can do to win a game at the end."
Mistakes by Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler ruined wonderful efforts by both.
Curry led the Bulls with 20 points and vastly outplayed big-money free-agent center Erick Dampier, whom he ran out of the game with a scoring burst that put the Bulls up eight in the first quarter. Chandler had 12 points and 11 rebounds and played excellent defense on Dirk Nowitzki, who shot only 4-for-18.
But both committed almost unpardonable basketball sins down the stretch.
The Bulls took a six-point lead with three minutes remaining and were matching the high-scoring Mavericks basket for basket. But Chandler, who had five turnovers, lost an inside pass with the Bulls up 90-87, and then with the Bulls ahead 90-89 with under two minutes remaining, Curry twice dropped passes. Then after a Curry miss on a wide-open jumper with about 20 seconds left and a one-point lead, Chandler got the rebound but went up with the ball instead of throwing it out and forcing Dallas to foul.
Finley then shook the ball loose and inexplicably was fouled by Curry with the Bulls up one and 16.9 seconds left.
"He said he didn't know the time and score," Skiles said.
Added Nowitzki: "He's been in the league a while now. That's a mistake you just can't make."
Finley made two free throws, but the Bulls ran a beautiful out-of-bounds play with Kirk Hinrich cutting off a screen and hitting a wide-open Ben Gordon for what looked like the winning three-pointer with 12 seconds left.
Nowitzki, who was 13 of 19 from the foul line while the Bulls as a team were 7 of 12, was fouled with nine seconds left and hit the first free throw to get Dallas within one. He missed the second, but Josh Howard (16 points, 10 rebounds) beat Chander for the rebound that went out of bounds, called off Chandler.
Finley, who led the Mavericks to their 13th straight win over the Bulls with 27 points, then hit a 13-footer for what turned out to be the winner.
"There were a lot of reasons we should have won the game, and a lot of glaring reasons why we did not," Skiles said. "That's a tough loss. We played well most of the night and played hard. We didn't play very smart and it cost us.
"We had trouble catching the ball, handling the ball, passing the ball. Having said that, we still should have won. It's probably hard for people to believe, but we do work on rebounding free throws and all those situations that occur."
The Bulls fell to 4-15 while the Mavs improved to 15-8. They're 11-0 against teams with losing records.
The Bulls outshot Dallas 52.6 percent to 41.5 percent, outrebounded the Mavs 42-37, had 29 assists to 17 for Dallas and outscored it 50-30 inside.
"What can I say. We were lucky," said coach Don Nelson. "I thought we would lose all the way. We didn't play well, but well enough to win."
With Curry scoring eight of their first 10 points, the Bulls took a six-point lead six minutes into the game, and early in the fourth quarter the Bulls got a three-pointer from Hinrich to open their lead to 75-65.
But the Mavs went on a 12-3 run around another three by Hinrich to make the game a nail-biter once again, a rare and enjoyable sight this season.