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Bulls-Mavericks Preview

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The Dallas Mavericks have boasted one of the NBA’s elite offenses all season. The addition of Rajon Rondo has their defense beginning to look more like a top-tier group, too.

The Chicago Bulls hope their own defense is back on track after shutting down the reigning champions.

Dallas seeks a fifth win in six games Friday night when it hosts Chicago.

The Mavericks (30-13) are averaging 108.1 points, trailing only Golden State, and their 47.1 field-goal percentage is also one of the league’s best. It’s the franchise’s highest scoring average since 1987-88 when it averaged 109.3 points. Each starter scores at least 10.7 points per game.

“They’re an offensive juggernaut,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders told the Timberwolves’ official website after Dallas beat them 98-75 on Wednesday. “I call it popcorn basketball and the basketball is popping all around.”

Dallas has held opponents to 99.4 points per 100 possessions in 16 games since acquiring Rondo on Dec. 18, ranking sixth in the NBA in that span. It gave up 105.1 per 100 previously to rank 20th. Rondo is second on the team with 1.6 steals per game and an average plus-5.5 rating.

The Mavericks, who are a half-game behind Memphis for first place in the Southwest, have been particularly stingy during a three-game winning streak, giving up 86.3 points per game on 39.3 percent shooting. While seven of their last 10 games have come against sub-.500 teams, they’re 13-10 against clubs with winning records.

Monta Ellis is averaging 22.9 points against winning teams compared to a 17.3 mark against sub-.500 opponents.

“The world we’re living in here in the West, this is advance citizenship,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’ve got to want it bad to win games every night. That’s where we’re at, and we’ve got to have a laser-like focus on that.”

Ellis had a season-high 38 points in a 132-129 double-overtime win at Chicago on Dec. 2, Dallas’ third victory in four meetings.

Prior to Thursday’s 104-81 home win over San Antonio, Chicago (28-16) had lost six of eight and allowed 108.8 points per game on 50.5 percent shooting during a 1-4 stretch. It had been giving up 98.5 points on 43.6 percent shooting.

“It shows what we’re capable of doing,” Pau Gasol said Thursday after finishing with 12 points and 17 rebounds.

Derrick Rose shook off a couple of tough games — he was 13 of 36 from the field in losses to Atlanta and Cleveland — to go 9 of 16 for 22 points. He’s also 20 for 36 (55.6 percent) from 3-point range over his last five contests after going 2 for 4 versus San Antonio.

Rose had 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting and committed a season-high seven turnovers in the first meeting. Gasol, who is averaging 13.0 rebounds while recording double-doubles in nine of his last 11 games, had 29 points and 14 rebounds against the Mavericks.

Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed their fourth and 11th consecutive games, respectively, with ankle injuries. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Noah, the team’s second-leading rebounder (9.4 rpg), has looked “very good” practicing on a limited basis the past two days while Dunleavy is very close to returning.

The Bulls are 6-6 on the second night of back-to-backs with Rose shooting 35.2 percent in six games.

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