DALLAS — The moral victories, and real losses, keep coming for the Bulls.
“I think they are the hardest playing team in the NBA,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said following his team’s 118-110 victory over the Bulls Monday. “They just come at you constantly.”
So does Luka Doncic, who proved the biggest reason the Bulls dropped their fourth straight and fell to a season-low 11 games under .500. The Bulls now are almost as close to the top chance for the No. 1 pick in the lottery (five games) as they are to the East’s eighth playoff seed (four games).
Doncic posted his 11th triple-double with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and completely took over the game in the third. He scored 21 points in the period.
“He can do so many things. He got in the lane and he can shoot so well,” Lauri Markkanen said. “It’s crazy how high his confidence is and where that can get you. Obviously, he’s really special.”
Kris Dunn drew the primary assignment on Doncic but played only 23 minutes due to foul trouble. Dunn, who stripped Doncic clean for a breakaway dunk in the fourth, finished with five fouls.
“I tried to make things difficult. I mean, it’s tough getting in foul trouble. I couldn’t really do what I would like throughout the game. And once a player gets going, it’s hard to stop him,” Dunn said. “I just wish I didn’t get in foul trouble so I could help my team out a little bit more. That’s something I have to be better with with my fouls. Just try to play solid but still be me.
“There were a couple calls I didn’t agree with. But the refs make the calls and you have to live with it. I have to look at the film, assess it and try to be better with my fouls so I can help my team. I’m a physical defender. I like to get up in people’s jerseys. And when you’re in foul trouble, I kind of have to play Cover 3 a little bit. Play zone and back off a little bit.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Dunn is getting weary of the moral victories.
“It’s tough. I think we put the work in. Everyone cares. Everyone plays their heart out. It sucks when you don’t get the win to back it up,” he said. “The only thing you can do in this league is keep coming, keep learning, keep trying to improve and learn from our mistakes. Try to get better in the second half.”
Markkanen scored 26 points in 36 minutes, a mild surprise given how badly he sprained his left ankle on Saturday in another competitive loss to the Celtics. He said he originally thought he’d miss significant time but the ankle improved with treatment, keeping his goal to play all 82 games alive.
“We wrapped it up pretty good. I didn’t feel much pain. I didn’t have the same pop on dunks,” he said. “But you just have to fight through and it’s how much pain I can tolerate. It wasn’t significant.”
Doncic’s night was.
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