So here's the Bulls' next game plan: Try to get behind by only 20 points.
If the Bulls had been able to do that Tuesday night in a 98-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, they might have pulled off a remarkable comeback instead of falling short.
It shows if we play consistently like that we have a good shot at winning a lot of games," said Kirk Hinrich, whose 26 second-half points and season-high 28 overall led the Bulls from a 30-point third-quarter deficit to within six points with more than nine minutes remaining. "But we realize if we don't how bad we can be."
That would be very, very bad. The Bulls came into Dallas riding a four-game winning streak, but they were down 24 points by halftime.
"We waited too long to start playing," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We kind of sleep-walked through 2 1/2 quarters."
But this Bulls team doesn't know the meaning of the word quit.
Of course, one also can say they also don't know the meaning of "7:30 p.m. tipoff."
Still, they never gave up.
"I'm thinking [when we were down 30], if we get it within 10 . . . I'm saying on the bench, `Let's get within 10 and we have a chance,'" said Tyson Chandler, who helped give the Bulls that chance with 12 points and 16 rebounds. "We got there, within [five with 5:27 left], and were never able to get back within two or something."
That's because the gasping Mavericks made just enough pivotal plays:
A jumper by Josh Howard, who led the Mavs with 22 points.
A Dirk Nowitzki three-pointer after two Bulls misses on one possession to stretch a five-point lead to eight with just less than five minutes left.
An Adrian Griffin steal with 1:21 left when the Bulls had crawled back within six that led to a pair of free throws for Jason Terry and an eight-point lead.
Still, the Bulls came back again with a Hinrich drive for a layup. Then after Jerry Stackhouse committed an offensive foul, the Bulls got four shots from three-point range as Chandler got two of the three offensive rebounds.
"I don't know if I've ever seen that," Skiles said. "It was strange we got all of them. We kicked those balls out and none of [the shots] were really close."
Griffin finally gathered in the last miss and was fouled, sending his former team on to Oklahoma City to play the Hornets Wednesday with a moral victory. And a moral to the story: Fans pay for all four quarters.
"We're not in this for moral victories," Skiles said. "But anybody watching this game could tell when we really showed up we could play with this team."
Which may be worse news for the 35-10 Mavericks.
"We'll take the win," coach Avery Johnson said. "But it shows we are a work in progress."
The Bulls too.
"We really stunk it up that first half," Chandler acknowledged.
The Mavericks opened quicker to the ball, pressuring the Bulls into mistake after mistake, running the ball at them while the Bulls were pulling up for tentative jumpers. It was a surprise with the Bulls (20-24) coming off four excellent efforts and 11 straight quarters in which they had led.
Instead, they came out as if the ball was square.
"For whatever reason we just started playing," Hinrich said. "I don't know if it was not to get embarrassed. Something went off in our heads. It's like we forgot about the score and started playing. We had our chances. We couldn't capitalize when we needed to."
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