The Bulls changed their lineup but not their fortunes on their annual extended November trip.
As expected, Chris Duhon replaced Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni took over for P.J. Brown on Tuesday night before 20,274 at the American Airlines Center.
But Dallas pulled away late for a 111-99 victory, dropping the Bulls to 4-42 on this trip since the dynasty days. The Bulls haven't won the opening game on their annual extended November trip since the 1996-97 season.
That's a lot of starting lineups ago.
"I felt they were toying with us," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "They made it look easy."
The Bulls trailed 82-76 after Kirk Hinrich drained a jumper with 9 minutes 22 seconds remaining, no easy task for a team that shot just 60 percent from the line.
But Dirk Nowitzki buried jumpers on consecutive possessions, Jason Terry sank a three-pointer, Nowitzki drew a foul on Nocioni and made both free throws and Greg Buckner swished a baseline jumper.
Aiding the 11-0 Mavericks run were misses on three straight possessions by Gordon, two of them wild.
"I was trying to be aggressive," said Gordon, who shot 6-for-18.
Nowitzki's 31 points led Dallas, which has won three straight after dropping its first four. Erick Dampier added 14 points and 13 rebounds, overpowering Ben Wallace on several occasions.
Hinrich's 25 points and six assists led the Bulls. Luol Deng added 24 points and 10 rebounds. But Hinrich had five turnovers and Deng got burned by Jerry Stackhouse, who added 21 for Dallas.
"It wasn't a good game by really anybody," Skiles said.
Skiles has attributed some of Gordon'sand the team'sinconsistency to eight new faces. Duhon, who shot 1-for-6, confirmed that dynamic also has contributed to confusion about the rotation.
"In some ways, some people haven't been happy with their roles or don't understand their roles," he said. "I think shortening the rotation will help to relax guys and let them feel comfortable to where they know what's expected of them and when it's expected of them."
The new lineup didn't exactly make Mavericks owner Mark Cuban howl in protest from his customary baseline seat. Instead, Cuban jumped for joy as Dallas ripped off an 11-2 run to open the game.
Most disturbing were three baskets following offensive rebounds, two by Dampier over Wallace.
"We had nothing again out of the gate," Skiles said. "We had zero basket protection pretty much the whole game."
The Bulls steadily clawed their way back, taking their first lead at 37-36 when Deng scored seven points and Brown added five in a 12-3 run.
Gordon entered Tuesday's action shooting 38.8 percent. Ditching his sweats at the 4:30 mark of the first quarter, he hit his first three shots, including a long jumper while being fouled. But he missed five of his next six shots and forced several.
Brown, the least of Skiles' concerns, entered with 2:52 left in the opening quarter as the backup center. He finished with seven points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Brown smiled the smile of a wily veteran when asked if not starting bothered him. Gordon, too, tried to take the demotion in stride.
"It's definitely not the end of the world," Gordon said.
Just the start of another trip that could be a circus.
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