Rapid Reaction: Mavs 100, Bulls 98

DALLAS -- The Chicago Bulls were wildly inconsistent Saturday, playing well in stretches and then disappearing. Unfortunately for them, they picked the worst time to disappear for a final time as they surrendered a 12-point lead in the last four minutes and lost a game to the Dallas Mavericks that they should have won. Chicago now trails the Brooklyn Nets by 2 1/2 games in the race for the fourth playoff spot and first-round home-court advantage. The Nets play at Utah on Saturday night.

How it happened: After losing that late lead, the Bulls still had a chance to win. But with 15.9 seconds left, Jimmy Butler missed two free throws and gave Dallas one last chance. At that point, the last thing the Bulls needed to do was give Dirk Nowitzki a chance to shoot a potential game-winning shot -- and that’s exactly what they did. The Mavericks did a nice job of moving the ball around on the last play, and although the Bulls guarded Nowitzki briefly, he had the slightest of openings for his last shot, which is all he needed. With 2.9 seconds left, Nowitzki hit a 3-point shot that gave the Mavericks the game and left the Bulls with the sickening feeling that they let one get away.

What it means: The Bulls lost ground in their chase for home-court advantage in the first round. They wasted excellent efforts by Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson -- each of whom had 25 points. The Bulls again were playing without Joakim Noah (foot), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) and Rip Hamilton (back). But considering they had double-digit leads in the third and fourth periods and lost them both times, this was an opportunity wasted.

Hits: Nate Robinson had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. When he made a 32-foot 3-pointer with 6:03 left, it seemed to give the Bulls the necessary momentum. After that, however, they simply could not match the Mavericks' effort.

Misses: The Bulls missed eight free throws that should have made the difference. The two by Jimmy Butler with 15.9 seconds left likely cost the Bulls the game.

Stat of the day: The Bulls had beaten the Mavericks three straight times, including by 23 earlier this season, although Nowitzki did not play because of injury in that game.

What's next: The Bulls departed after the game and flew back to Chicago, where they play the Pistons on Sunday night.