Consistent Mike Dunleavy lifts Bulls to win

CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah has a theory as to why Mike Dunleavy went off for 20 points in Saturday night's win over the Atlanta Hawks.

"He's consistent, man," Noah said in a happy Chicago Bulls locker room that was blaring Oasis' "Wonderwall" after the 91-84 victory. "He's always the same. Never too high, never too low. A very consistent player. He was huge tonight. I think he took this matchup with [Kyle] Korver pretty seriously."

Dunleavy downplayed the encounter with Korver, the popular former Bull, but it's hard to argue that his calm demeanor has helped keep the Bulls steady offensively over the past few weeks. Dunleavy's ability to remain emotionally solid and knock down shots when given the chance is one of the biggest reasons the Bulls signed him over the summer.

For a guy who came to Chicago to chase a championship alongside Derrick Rose, his going with the flow as the Bulls’ championship aspirations have disappeared is something his teammates and coaches respect about him.

Dunleavy has his own ideas as to why he has remained the same this season despite of all his new team's adversity.

"Well, one, knock on wood, staying healthy," he said. "Being able to practice and play every day, which has been good. And being around this league a long time, 12 years, a lot of things happen. You know that throughout the course of the season. So you just don't let it affect you too much.

"And now with the guys back, Jimmy [Butler] and Lu [Deng], I'm kind of in my more natural role coming off the bench. And I'm more comfortable with that."

Some Bulls fans are still upset that the organization decided to ink Dunleavy instead of re-signing popular reserve Marco Belinelli. While Belinelli has thrived this season with the San Antonio Spurs, Dunleavy has failed, at times, to make as big a difference as fans would have hoped.

What some fans forget is that Dunleavy was brought in to play alongside Rose. He was viewed as a better option because of his ability to knock down 3-pointers consistently -- something Belinelli struggled to do at times last season.

No matter which side you come down on, the reality is that Dunleavy has played about as well as expected, given the circumstances. As a group, the Bulls are playing their best basketball since Rose was injured Nov. 22. They have gone back to their roots -- solid defense and aggressive play.

"We fought hard tonight," Noah said. "It wasn't pretty, but we just found a way. Some nights it's going to be like that. When your shot isn't going, it's ugly offensively. You just got to dig down defensively, you got to rebound, you got to make it grimy. I think we did a good job."

Bulls forward Taj Gibson echoed those sentiments. He and his teammates know there are still a lot of games to play, but they are confident in the direction in which they are headed.

"We got a long way to go," Gibson said. "We know we're humble. We know it's going to take one game at a time, one play at a time, and we understand that we have to play with energy. Tonight we just played with a lot of energy. One guy steps down, another guy's got to step up."

Dunleavy filled that role very well for the Bulls on Saturday night.