NBA Basketball: Dallas Mavericks at Chicago Bulls - Dallas Favored

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The Dallas Mavericks have dominated the NBA for the past six weeks. Their reign over the Chicago Bulls has lasted for almost nine years.

The Mavericks seek their ninth straight win and 22nd in 23 games when they visit the Bulls on Thursday.

Oddsmakers have made Dallas -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 191 total points (View NBA Sports Books).

Dallas (35-8), owner of the NBA's best record after losing in last season's finals, will attempt to set its longest road winning streak of the season at six games. Its only defeat in 22 games overall since Dec. 11 was a 101-98 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 7.

"We just feel all of the players that we have are hungry in general," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "Everybody early in the season likes to talk about other teams being hungry to win, but they failed to mention us. We are a hungry team, we are a focused team and we are just taking it one game at a time."

The Mavericks have won 16 of 17 meetings with the Bulls since March 12, 1998 - the last time they opposed Michael Jordan in a Chicago uniform. Dallas has since won all seven of its visits to the United Center.

If the Mavericks can continue their dominance of Chicago (24-19) while completing this three-game road trip, they will improve to 13-2 against Eastern Conference teams.

"We're about as hungry as it gets," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "We were so close last year. It was a very, very disappointing loss at the end. But more than anything, it's motivation for us to work even harder this year."

Nowitzki has posted six straight double-doubles, averaging 32.2 points and 10.7 rebounds. He had 33 points, 10 boards and a season high-tying eight assists in the Mavericks' 111-95 win at Orlando on Tuesday.

It was the seventh time in 12 games he's scored at least 30 points.

Josh Howard added 25 points, and is averaging 26.8 over the last four games.

Devin Harris, battling the flu recently, is likely to return to the starting lineup after scoring 13 points as a reserve on Tuesday. Johnson benched the 6-foot-3 Harris to avoid an unfavorable size matchup, but the third-year guard could return to the starting lineup to oppose the 6-foot-3 Ben Gordon.

Gordon came off the bench for most of the season before starting the last six games, averaging 21.7 points in that stretch, while taking Chris Duhon's place in the lineup.

Duhon, suspended for one game last week for missing practice, has not played in the Bulls' last two games on coach's decisions. Duhon, who has made two of his last 30 3-point attempts, had previously missed only one game because of a coach's decision in his three-season career.

Despite Gordon being held to 12 points on Tuesday, Chicago avoided a third straight loss by defeating Atlanta 94-86. Luol Deng led six Bulls in double figures with 18 points and Kirk Hinrich had a season-high 12 assists.

Many of the Bulls were not very pleased with struggling at home to beat one of the league's worst teams, and know their play must improve with a tough schedule looming. After facing Dallas, Chicago concludes a three-game homestand on Saturday against Miami before undertaking a seven-game road trip against Western Conference foes.

"We're talking about it," Bulls forward P.J. Brown said. "We know that's not going to get it done. There is no way we're going to get away with playing that type of basketball on that trip, so we tried to tighten up and play consistent and get a lot better."

The Bulls were 14-3 in December, but they are 5-7 in January and that mark includes a 4-4 home record. The team entered this month with a 14-2 mark at the United Center.

"Every game is important for us right now, especially in this building," Chicago's Ben Wallace said. "We have to force teams to come in here and work extremely hard to beat us." 

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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