Things are about to get a bit more challenging for the Dallas Mavericks, who are off to their best start since the 2014-15 season.
After capitalizing on a fairly soft schedule to win seven of its first 10 games, Dallas plays six of its next seven games on the road, starting with a visit to Chicago to face the Bulls on Wednesday.
Luka Doncic is averaging 24.9 points, 8 rebounds and 6.7 assists to lead the Mavericks, who recorded their third straight victory with a 108-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday.
Dallas takes a step up in competition against Chicago, which improved to 7-3 with Monday’s impressive 118-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
One key for the Mavericks’ early success has been the play of their bench, led by fourth-year guard Jalen Brunson.
The Villanova product is averaging 15 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists while playing 28.6 minutes per game off the bench. Brunson has scored in double figures in four straight games and had a season-high 31 points in last Wednesday’s win over San Antonio.
“The confidence is always growing,” Brunson said. “Part of that just comes from my work ethic. That’s where my confidence starts. As long as I keep doing that for my team, my confidence is going to be there.”
Coach Jason Kidd continues to be encouraged by the play of his bench, which outscored the New Orleans’ reserves 42-10 on Monday.
Reggie Bullock and Frank Ntilikina are providing valuable minutes for a Mavericks team that has held four of its first 10 opponents under 100 points.
Dallas’ tenacious defense will be tested by Chicago, which is averaging 108.9 points and boasts a dynamic scoring duo in forward DeMar DeRozan and guard Zach LaVine.
The pair combined for 52 points in Monday’s win over Brooklyn. The Bulls outscored the Nets 42-17 in the fourth quarter.
Chicago also received a spark from rookie guard Ayo Dosumnu, who scored a season-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 20 minutes.
The Chicago native and University of Illinois star has become a fan favorite while providing instant energy off the bench.
“If he sneezes out there, the crowd will get excited,” DeRozan said. “You definitely gotta feed off it.”
The 6-foot-5 Dosunmu is making a case to remain in the rotation even after guard Coby White (left shoulder surgery) makes his return.
“He just makes things happen. When he plays, the only thing he’s focused on is trying to win. That’s the kind of competitor he is,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “Whether he scores two points, no points, doesn’t take a shot, he’s going to try to impact winning.”
White, who averaged 15.1 points last season, is expected to make his season debut at some point during the Bulls’ upcoming five-game road trip, which begins Friday at Golden State.
Chicago has won its last three meetings against Dallas, which is still looking for an offensive identity under Kidd. The Mavericks are averaging 102.4 points, which ranked 25th in the NBA entering Tuesday’s play.