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Ugly does it for Bulls in victory over Hawks

Mike Dunleavy had 20 points 9-for-14 shooting against AtlantHawks Saturday United Center. | Ray Amati/Getty Images

Mike Dunleavy had 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at the United Center. | Ray Amati/Getty Images

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Updated: February 6, 2014 6:46AM

Until further notice, this is going to be the Bulls’ blueprint for victory: a lot of ugly, a lot of defense and a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

The Bulls are at least starting to get the hang of that. Playing without Carlos Boozer — who is day-to-day with a sore knee — they made the most of an uneven performance to beat the Atlanta Hawks 91-84 on Saturday before 21,539 fans at the United Center.

Mike Dunleavy scored 20 points off the bench on 9-for-14 shooting to lead six players in double figures. Luol Deng (17 points, 11 rebounds), Taj Gibson (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (10 points, 12 rebounds) had double-doubles. But most of all, the Bulls did what they do best — outrebounding the Hawks 52-43 and holding them to 37 percent shooting (32-for-86).

The Hawks were playing the second of back-to-back games and were without forward Al Horford, who’s out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. But a win is a win for the Bulls, and they’ve won consecutive games and five of their last seven.

‘‘It was an ugly game,’’ Noah said. ‘‘We didn’t play well offensively. Sometimes when things aren’t going our way offensively, I feel like we get upset. That’s normal. But today we showed a lot of resilience. We fought hard through adversity.

‘‘That’s good. When things aren’t going our way offensively, we’ve got to find a way to get a stop — even if it means getting two or three stops in a row. If that’s what you’ve got to do, that’s what you do.’’

The Bulls shot 41 percent (33-for-81), including 6-for-17 from three-point range. But they made plays when they had to and never fell behind after taking a 10-point lead in the first quarter.

They spent most of the game fending off the equally challenged Hawks, who tied the game at 67 on Mike Scott’s three-point play with 11:12 left.

But Dunleavy shook off Kyle Korver to hit a three-pointer, and Noah tipped in a missed drive by D.J. Augustin for a 72-67 lead.

When the Hawks cut it to 80-79 with 5:35 left, Dunleavy made a turnaround jumper, Gibson scored on a dunk, Dunleavy added a tip-in and Noah fed Gibson for an alley-oop dunk that brought the house down and gave the Bulls an 88-79 lead with 3:12 to go.

In between, Korver had a three-pointer taken off the board when a review revealed his basket that made it 84-82 did not beat the shot clock.

The Bulls scored 38 points off their bench, with Dunleavy doing the most damage. He had 11 points in the fourth quarter.

‘‘You’re going to have nights where you are knocking down shots,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘Sometimes you don’t really have an explanation for things. My teammates did a good job of finding me coming off my sweet spots.’’

But whether it’s Dunleavy one night and Augustin another, the Bulls’ biggest hope is with defense. It saved them against the Hawks.

‘‘The Bulls’ core is mentally tough,’’ said Korver, who played for the Bulls in 2010-11 and 2011-12. ‘‘With the loss of Derrick [Rose], it creates drama. They just play through it. I have a lot of respect for them.’’


Twitter: @MarkPotash

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