And less than six minutes into the game, the boos started rolling across the United Center.
"It's only the first quarter of an NBA game, so I knew we'd come from behind somehow," Chicago rookie Derrick Rose said.
And that's what the Bulls did. They turned up the defense, started running the floor, then caught up and passed the Mavericks for a 98-91 victory, sending Dallas to its fourth straight loss.
"They were attacking us with transition and they put us on our heels early," said Ben Gordon, who led the Bulls with 35 points, keeping them close early on after they fell behind 24-5. "We started attacking them and we started getting back on defense and that really helped us.
"We are on our home court and we're down 24-to something, whatever it was. We heard the fans starting to boo us, and I think everybody started taking it a little personal."
But all was forgiven by the fourth quarter, when the Bulls pulled away.
"There is no such thing as a 17- or a 19-point shot. We just had to chip away at the lead, play good defense, run the floor and get some of the shots we wanted, which we were finally able to do," Rose said.
Rose, who shot 1-for-8 in the first half, was 6-for-7 in the third quarter, when he scored 14 of his 16 points. Luol Deng added 20 points.
"It's disappointing. We desperately need a win," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm just surprised at our lack of fight. I don't know how else to put it."
Dallas blew out to a 24-5 lead less than six minutes into the game before Chicago recovered for a one-point halftime lead. In the third quarter, Rose's play helped the Bulls take control and go up 78-70 with a quarter left.
Chicago's Larry Hughes, making his regular-season debut after dislocating his shoulder in a preseason game last month, hit a jumper, made a 3-pointer and then came up with a steal in the fourth quarter that led to Tyrus Thomas' follow-up slam. That dunk, two free throws by Thomas, a drive by Gordon and a jumper by Deng completed an 11-0 run that made it 96-79 with 6:08 left.
Dallas cut it to seven with a minute left on Howard's free throw, but missed several shots to pull closer.
"We don't play defense," Dallas guard Jason Kidd said. "That's been our problem. First six minutes we were playing defense and found ourselves up and that was it. We have as many offensive weapons [as anyone] in the league, but we got to find some guys who want to play defense."
Dallas came out running and threatened to blow the Bulls out in the first quarter. Howard had 11 points and the Mavericks hit eight of their first nine shots. The Bulls were flat offensively, missing 12 straight shots after Drew Gooden's jumper in the opening minute.
But just as quickly, the Bulls found their rhythm, reeling off 13 straight points behind seven from Gordon, cutting the lead to four. Chicago ended up trailing by 10 after one quarter when the Mavs' DeSagana Diop tipped in a shot just before the buzzer.
The Bulls shot 28 percent in the opening quarter to 55 percent for the Mavs. And strangely enough, those percentages were reversed in the second quarter -- 55 percent for Chicago and 28 percent for the Mavs.
With Chicago down by 12 in the second quarter, Deng led the Bulls on a 22-9 run with 12 points, hitting a late driving basket for a 51-50 halftime lead.
A 15-6 spurt to start the second half gave the Bulls a 66-56 lead as Rose scored eight.
Dirk Nowitzki scored only 12 for the Mavs, shooting 5-for-17. Gordon shot 12-of-21 for the Bulls. ... The Mavs had won 18 of 20 against the Bulls, including eight of nine in Chicago before Thursday night. ... Gooden was back for the Bulls after sitting out two games with a sprained right ankle. Newly acquired Bulls guard Lindsey Hunter didn't play.