Mike Dunleavy Jr. had a game-high 22 points in Monday night’s 94-80 Bulls’ win over the Celtics at the United Center, but afterwards, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t focus on the veteran’s best-known trait.
Instead, on a night when Dunleavy went 7-of-12 from the field — he’s struggled with his shot of late — Thibodeau cited the sharpshooter’s ability to set picks, not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Duke product’s game.
“Well, he does a lot more than just shoot, and it’s the threat of the shot. He creates space. No one’s leaving Mike Dunleavy open, and he moves well without the ball. One of the things that probably gets overlooked more than anything else is the screening that he does,” the coach explained. “He’s a great screener and he moves extremely well without the ball, and so he’s creating easy scoring opportunities. The obvious is when you see a player make a pass or the extra pass. But a great screen is another act of unselfishness and makes your team a lot better. So he’s probably one of our best screeners, if not the best. He puts his body on people and people get open.”
Nevertheless, it was a big scoring night for the 12-year pro, who said that his intangibles went hand in hand with his jumper Monday.
“Obviously you play a lot better when shots go down. It’s been tough for me this year, but you just keep shooting, taking them when they’re there and tonight, they fell. So it was a good performance, and I’m pleased with how we played down the stretch,” he acknowledged. “I try and do everything as well as I possibly can. Whether that’s inbounding the ball, setting a screen, coming off a screen, boxing out. Just whatever it is, you want to try to do it to the best of your ability, and that’s the way I was taught and you can always get better."