DALLAS—The Bulls have performed disappearing acts so many times this season that this one stood out for what didn't leave American Airlines Center.
Kirk Hinrich had long since waved goodbye, earning two quick technical fouls and an ejection in the second quarter. Luol Deng vanished for a third-quarter stretch, too, courtesy of an inadvertent elbow that opened a bloody four-stitch gash over his right eye.
And still, the Bulls wouldn't go away.
They really had no business hanging around within five points late in the fourth quarter against one of the Western Conference's elite and ultimately fell 102-94 Monday night to the Dallas Mavericks.
The loss dropped the Bulls to a season-low 12 games under .500 (22-34) with 26 games remaining.
"I liked the way we didn't quit," interim coach Jim Boylan said. "Loose balls seemed to be a big part of the game. Anytime you play Jason Kidd — he did the same thing in New Jersey and when I was with him in Phoenix — he comes up with those loose balls. They can decide games."
Larry Hughes, who scored 14 in his second game as a Bull, made it 93-88 with 2 minutes 39 seconds left with a baseline jumper.
But Dirk Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 29, drew a foul on Tyrus Thomas at the other end and made two free throws. After a miss by Drew Gooden, who made a case for starting with 17 points and eight rebounds, Kidd scored on a layup to ice matters.
Dallas is now a league-best 24-2 at home and 3-1 since acquiring Kidd, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in his home debut.
"He's a huge boost to this team," Gooden said. "But we competed."
Ben Gordon's 25 points led the Bulls, who fell behind by a ridiculous 17 in the first quarter thanks in part to a brutal stretch by Hinrich. He committed three turnovers in 6:47.
Official Monty McCutchen ran Hinrich with 2:20 left in the first half on a simple out-of-bounds call in which Hinrich and Kidd battled for possession. Hinrich, who failed to score before his first career ejection, received two technicals for arguing.
"I probably deserved one technical," Hinrich said. "The second one came so fast I don't even know what I said to get it."
The rest of the game followed the same pattern: The Mavericks, mostly thanks to 64.3 percent three-point shooting, would drop huge bursts on the Bulls, who then would claw back. Gooden in particular wouldn't quit, even if Erick Dampier had two of his seven blocks against him.
"He played active and strong around the basket," Boylan said. "He has a good feel for what we're trying to do, understands timeout plays. I think he's really going to help us."
Said Gooden: "Whether I start is up to Coach. I'll continue to do my job to help this team win."
It's hard to win when you have more turnovers than assists, a 17-13 disadvantage for the Bulls.
"We're going to get better playing together, but it's very confusing out there right now," Deng said.