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NBA Mavericks at Bulls Preview

January 25, 2007

NBA Basketball - Dallas Mavericks (-5, 191) at Chicago Bulls 8:00 PM EST

Dirk NowitzkiThe red-hot Dallas Mavericks' visit to the Chicago Bulls in tonight's fantastic NBA action. The Mavericks know that a victory will take them one step closer to beating last year's franchise record of a 60 win regular season.

With 21 wins in their past 22 games and Dirk Nowitzki in sensational form, the Mavericks are well deserved five point favorites in the Windy City. And with 35 wins and just eight defeats so far this year, Dallas is truly on track to eclipsing their impressive feats of last year.

The Bulls, by contrast, have been struggling with consistency. An unimpressive 94-86 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night ended a two-game losing streak, but the Bulls are barely keeping their heads above water at 24-19. Fortunately, their home mark has been very solid (18-6), showing they are not without hope tonight.

But to notch back-to-back wins, the Bulls need to find a way to silence the brilliant Nowitzki, who continues to run hot. The power forward, crowned European player of the year only last week, was at his devastating best in Tuesday night's 111-95 win at Orlando.

Nowitzki came up with 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, terrorizing the Magic from start to finish. That was his 26th "double-double" of the season in just 43 games. Last season, it took him over 60 games to reach the same milestone, and he was playing pretty darn well back then!

Not that the Mavericks, whose sole loss in the past month came in a narrow defeat at the Lakers, are a one-man band.

Josh Howard, who hit for 25 points against the Magic, has also been in top form, while Jason Terry and Devin Harris have been playing handy support roles.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Mavericks' run has been their ability to maintain concentration and keep the pressure on opponents from the opening whistle to the final buzzer.

On consecutive nights against Miami and Orlando, they never trailed, charging to early leads and then powering on to strong victories. Chicago's challenge is to ride with Dallas in the early stages and not be intimidated by the Mavericks' big guns.

But to do that, their main men, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, will have to keep pace with the phenomenal Nowitzki. Both Gordon (21.1 points per game) and Deng (17.9) are having solid seasons, but they will need to step up to match the consistent Nowitzki (25.1).

Summing Up: The Mavericks come into the game high on confidence, while the Bulls continue to run hot and cold. Dallas should prove too strong at both ends of the court, but at home, the Bulls may keep it from being a blow out.

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