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Bulls Left Shaking Their Heads After Being Outmaneuvered Late By Mavericks

By Cody Westerlund--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It shouldn't have come down to the waning seconds Tuesday, the Bulls all agreed, but it did. It's just the nature of this team.

So after the final 59.5 seconds played out in frantic fashion, all the Bulls could do was shake their heads. This time, it was a 99-98 loss to the Mavericks at the United Center in which the Bulls (21-22) didn't execute down the stretch, with communication, responsibility and stretegic issues once again highlighting inconsistency just two nights after one of their best wins of the season.

With the game on the line, it was a 14-27 Mavericks squad that outsmarted and outmaneuvered the Bulls. After Chicago star Jimmy Butler hit a go-ahead jumper for a 98-96 lead with 22.8 seconds left, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle eschewed calling a timeout, citing the desire to create "unpredictability."

The decision did just that, allowing Deron Williams to freelance, get Nikola Mirotic on a pick-and-roll switch and and quickly blow past him into the lane. When Dwyane Wade helped off Wesley Matthews, Williams found him for the game-winning 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds remaining.

"Dwyane, instinctive player, went over on the help, and then we didn't rotate over from the top," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We needed to obviously do a better job of staying in front on the other side."

Hoiberg's words placed the primary blame on Mirotic getting blown by, which started the chain reaction, but there was more too it. In his postgame comments, Wade indicated he wanted to stay home on Matthews so as not to give up a 3-pointer, but he heard the Bulls sideline telling him it was his rotation. Then no help defense followed behind him once he saw Williams headed for the lane.

Wade also confirmed the Bulls were planning to switch the pick-and-roll instead of working to fight through it, which put Mirotic in the position of having to guard a quicker foe. Butler had picked up Williams at half court.

"It was bang-bang," Wade said. "There was a lot of communication going on from the sideline, guys trying to help us out and tell us where to be. Deron kind of got a step on someone and I was staying home with Wes and I kind of got yelled (at) that it was my rotation. I was stuck in the middle.

"It's just one of those things. Deron made a great pass, and Wes made a great shot. We did our job. We switched the pick-and-roll (early) ... Unfortunately, he got a step and he made our defense move to the point where we didn't necessarily want to."

While Wade and Butler each indicated the Bulls weren't surprised by the Mavericks' not calling a timeout -- Bulls guard  and former Mav Rajon Rondo "knows all the plays" anyway, Carlisle joked -- they did acknowledge some regret.

"We got to know the situation and know we can't give up threes, especially on a drive-and-kick like that," Butler said. "But it happened man, and you learn from it. There ain't too much more you can say about it. "

The Bulls still had a chance to win on their final possession, inbounding to Butler (24 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists) and isolating him at the top. Former Marquette teammate Matthews came up big though, accomplishing his goal of forcing Butler left and away from his preferred spot. Matthews then knocked the ball out of Butler's hands, and it bounded to Wade in the corner, from where his contested jumper at the buzzer careened off the back iron.

"Played about as good of defense as you could have right there," Butler said. "Good for him."

When it was all over, the Bulls fell below .500 again and into a tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference.

"It is what it is right now," said Wade, who had 17 points on 8-of-21 shooting on his 35th birthday. "Halfway through the season, now 21-22. We've been going through this all year. I'm too old to get stressed out and frustrated by all this.

"Once you realize who you are, you'll be better off. You'll try to sleep better at night."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for and covers the Bulls. He's also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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