Last season the Bulls somehow turned around a 49-33 record from 2006-07 into the exact opposite at 33-49.
Suffice it to say the turnaround the Bulls pulled off Thursday night at the United Center seemed much more palatable.
Trailing by 19 in the first quarter, the Bulls stormed back for a convincing 98-91 victory in which they led by as many as 17 over a reeling Mavericks team before a packed house of 21,751.
Ben Gordon led the way with a season-high 35 points, and Luol Deng added 20. Derrick Rose contributed 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists and zero turnovers.
Fourteen of Rose's points came in the second half as he shook off a 1-of-8 start.
"Being down that much on your home court and hearing the fans start to boo, I think everybody took it personal," Gordon said. "My mind-set was to shoot every time. I just tried to stay aggressive."
How fired up were the Bulls over this stirring comeback?
Rose, typically so reserved and undemonstrative, actually pumped both arms into the air to exhort the crowd as he retreated to the bench during a fourth-quarter timeout.
"I wasn't worried at all," Rose said of both his and the Bulls' poor start. "We knew we just had to keep attacking."
The outcome seemed improbable given the way the Bulls started.
Even with Drew Gooden returning from a two-game absence with a sprained right ankle, the Bulls missed 11 of their first 12 shots and fell behind 24-5. Dallas drained eight of its first nine shots.
But Gordon scored 12 first-quarter points and started attacking aggressively to spark a 13-0 run and key the Bulls' comeback. Aggressive defense off the bench from Tyrus Thomas on Dirk Nowitzki and later Josh Howard helped as well.
"I thought Tyrus was outstanding," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Just his activity, keeping balls alive, playing smart, hustling."
Thomas played 34 minutes in place of an ineffective Joakim Noah, who started but played only four minutes after surrendering back-to-back jumpers to Nowitzki.
"I just wanted to get back to hustling and scrapping and making good things happen," Thomas said.
By halftime, with Gordon scoring 19 and Deng adding 16, the Bulls actually had grabbed a 51-50 lead.
They increased that to 78-70 after three quarters, with Rose erupting for 14 third-quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting and four assists.
The game marked Larry Hughes' season debut. Hughes dislocated his right shoulder Oct. 22 during an exhibition in Minnesota.
Originally, Hughes believed he would miss six to eight weeks, but he returned in a bit more than three.
"I'm not worried about contact," Hughes said. "I've made myself as strong as I can be. I just need to find a rhythm and help the team any way I can."
Hughes finished with five points in 13 minutes.
With Hughes' return, the Bulls finally had their first crowded backcourt situation of the season with five guards active. Thabo Sefolosha, fresh off a strong game defensively, was the odd man out, not getting off the bench.
Neither did veteran Lindsey Hunter, signed earlier Thursday.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun