Mike Dunleavy delivered his best game of the season, scoring 15 points as the Bulls pulled away late to beat Cleveland 96-81 on Monday at the United Center.
It must have been because his favorite coach was in the building. Former Milwaukee Bucks (and Bulls) interim coach Jim Boylan, now a Cleveland assistant, surely nodded to himself as Dunleavy drained a 3-pointer with 4:32 left to ignite a 13-2 run by the Bulls.
Wait a minute, there's another candidate. A guy named Mike Krzyzewski from Duke was also in the house. The Blue Devils were preparing to face Kansas on Tuesday at the UC. Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer helped lead Duke to the 2001 national title, Krzyzewski's third of four.
Another familiar face was seen in the media room after the game, chatting for about a half-hour with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. It was Mike Dunleavy Sr., former coach of the Lakers, Bucks, Blazers and Clippers.
So it's no wonder Dunleavy Jr. played well against the Cavaliers.
"There's a lot of good coaches here tonight," he said after the game. "I wanted to make sure I did a good job out there and those guys can't ride me too hard."
Dunleavy was the Bulls' big addition over the summer, besides getting Derrick Rose back from knee surgery. Dunleavy was supposed to be a quality 3-point shooter who would help spread the floor.
He got off to a relatively slow start this season, missing some shots and raising red flags with his defense. His experience was nothing like Marco Belinelli's misery of last November.
Dunleavy finished strong Monday, playing ahead of Jimmy Butler as the Bulls pulled away late.
"He hit some big shots down the stretch for us," Boozer said. "He's always been a good pressure player. I'm proud of him."
Before meeting up with his dad, Dunleavy talked about the process of getting comfortable with the Bulls.
"It's an easy group to get along with and feel comfortable with, but you've got to go out there and perform," he said. "I think early on, you're so concerned with running the right plays, doing the right things, being in the right spot on defense. I'm just not thinking about making shots at a clip that I normally make them at.
"Then you get to the point where, 'All right, I've got to start shooting well' and it's not as easy said than done. So just keep working at it. I know they'll go down. I feel pretty comfortable with these guys and what we're trying to do. It's getting there."
Dunleavy also sent a pre-emptive strike, telling reporters he doesn't expect to lean on any excuses.
"I like to think I don't need to be in a rhythm," he said. "Certainly that helps, but you never know when you're going to be called upon. When you get 2, 3 or 4 shots a night, I need to make them. That's the way I see it."
These past two home games against Cleveland and Utah were supposed to be a chance for the Bulls to build confidence. That part worked out well, but now they need to deal with Derrick Rose's minor hamstring injury, a busy weekend, then the annual circus road trip.
His former coaches won't follow Dunleavy everywhere.