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updated: 1/4/2014 11:11 PM

Bulls winning with tighter 3-point defense

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  • Bulls guard Jimmy Butler sticks close to Hawks forward Paul Millsap as Millsap looks to pass during the Bulls' victory Saturday night.

      Bulls guard Jimmy Butler sticks close to Hawks forward Paul Millsap as Millsap looks to pass during the Bulls' victory Saturday night.
    Associated Press

 
 

In a brutal home loss to Dallas on Dec. 28, the Bulls watched the Mavericks drain 13 of 26 shots from 3-point range.

Since then the Bulls have managed to plug the long-range faucet. In the ensuing four games, their opponents have shot just 23.7 percent from behind the arc.

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That theme fit well for Saturday's visit by Atlanta. Not only are the Hawks emphasizing the 3-point shot under first-time head coach Mike Budenholzer, they also can boast of Kyle Korver's record streak of consecutive games with a made 3-pointer.

Korver extended his streak to 103 games by knocking down a corner 3-pointer just two minutes into the game. Overall, though, the Bulls' defense rose to the occasion and delivered a 91-84 victory at the United Center.

The Bulls (14-18) have won five of their last seven and are just two games in the loss column behind Atlanta, the third-place team in the East.

"I think it was an ugly game," Joakim Noah said. "We didn't play well offensively. Sometimes when things aren't going our way offensively, I feel like we get upset. I think that's normal. I think today we showed a lot of resiliency. We fought hard."

Korver played for the Bulls for two seasons from 2010-12, and there's too much respect for Korver in the locker room for Bulls players to take the matchup or the 3-point streak personally. Jimmy Butler, a rookie during Korver's second season in Chicago, drew the defensive assignment at the start of the game.

"Actually, I didn't even think about it," Butler said. "Kyle's my guy. I was his young fella, so it was all about competing."

Wait a minute. Butler was Ronnie Brewer's guy during that rookie season, wasn't he?

"I'm his young fella, too," Butler said with a smile. "I'm all of these guys' young fella. I was never a rookie. I was a first-year vet. So don't get that twisted.

"Everybody makes shots. (Korver) is just really good at it. So I go into the every game the same way: that's be aggressive, not to let my guy score, play great help defense and attack on offense."

Noah made a joke about Mike Dunleavy feeling the pressure of a matchup with Korver. Dunleavy led the Bulls with 20 points Saturday. Korver finished with 8 points and hit 2 of 7 shots from 3-point range.

"At this point, we're a few games under .500, so anything to get a win," Dunleavy said. "I don't really get into personal matchups. Tonight in the fourth quarter the guys did a pretty good job of finding me coming off screens and stuff and we were able to score just enough points to win."

The fourth quarter was impressive for the Bulls. After shooting just 37.7 percent in the first three quarters, they hit 10 of 20 shots in the fourth, with Dunleavy scoring 11 points.

After Atlanta tied the score in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Bulls scored the next 5 points and didn't relinquish the lead.

Luol Deng added 17 points, 11 rebounds and tossed in a half-court shot at the first-half buzzer. Noah contributed 10 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Bulls matched a season high with 12 blocks as a team. Taj Gibson started in place of the injured Carlos Boozer and also finished with 10 points and 12 boards.

•Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls and check out his All Bull blog at dailyherald.com.

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