The Bulls weren’t able to halt former teammate Kyle Korver’s streak of games with a 3-pointer made, which hit 103 after a make in the first quarter, but they did pick up their fifth win in the last seven games after defeating the Atlanta Hawks 91-84.
Mike Dunleavy scored 11 of the team’s 24 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 20. 20 of the Bulls (14-18) game-high 52 rebounds came on the offensive end and they held the Hawks to 37 percent shooting and finished with a season high 12 blocked shots.
“They really spread you out,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of the Hawks. “If you let your guard down at all and sometimes you could defend them well and they can make. They keep a lot of pressure on you. I thought the rebounding was really good. We got a core of guys that understand (defense) and are really good at it. And I think our guys put the effort forth. That’s what it’s all about. As I team, they’ve committed to that and I think we know if we defend, rebound and keep our turnovers down, we’re going to be in position to win.
Without Carlos Boozer, who sat his first game of the season with a sore right knee, the Bulls had three players record a double-double, which has happened three times this season. Six players also finished in double figures in scoring. For the third time in a row, the bench outscored its opponents bench (38-25).
The Bulls took a 50-45 lead into halftime after a halfcourt heave by Luol Deng found the bottom of the net. Thanks to an ugly third quarter that saw them shoot 22 percent from the field, the Hawks stayed within striking distance heading into the fourth until Dunleavy scored 11 of the team’s first 19 points of the fourth quarter.
After a Taj Gibson dunk in transition that made it 84-79 in the Bulls favor, Korver nailed a three to make it a one possession game with 4:18 remaining. Officials reviewed the make after a stoppage in play and ruled that his shot came after the buzzer and ruled it a shot clock violation, which gave the Bulls a nine-point lead and some ground Atlanta couldn’t make up.
Atlanta was led by Jeff Teague and Paul Milsap’s, who both finished with 16 points apiece.
Given how bad the Eastern Conference is after Indiana and Miami, the Bulls are in prime position to move up in the standings.
“We just gritted it out, especially on the defensive end with the rebounding and blocked shots,” Dunleavy said. “Our offense wasn’t pretty tonight, but it was good enough to win.
"We want to get into the playoffs, get home court advantage. Luckily in the East, there's a clutter of teams right there, not too far apart in the loss column. We see this as an opportunity to make a push in the new year."