The Chicago Bulls were desperate for a victory and in need of offense that just hasn't been there.
Since the Derrick Rose injury in 2012, the Bulls have been a roster in transition and that transition has left them with an incomplete attack. Without a real chance of contending as Rose rehabs his knee the past two years, there wasn't a need to spend money on a bench that wouldn't be complementing the city's top star. Kyle Korver walked to the Atlanta Hawks. Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Keeping a great second unit together wasn't necessary for the cost of it all in years in which they'd need to be a Disney movie to actually contend.
Heading into this season, the Bulls ramped up the bench a bit, signing Mike Dunleavy to the roster to fill the void left by Korver leaving. This Bulls team is not a good outside shooting team. They finished 24th in the NBA in 3-point percentage and rarely posed a threat from outside. And down 0-2 in the opening round series against the Washington Wizards and heading to our nation's capitol, the Bulls really needed someone to step up in the offense.
Enter Dunleavy in Game 3, who set a career-high in playoff scoring with 35 points by more than doubling his previous high of 17 points. He finished one point away from his overall career-high of 36 points by making 8-of-10 3-pointers in the game and finally being the guy who can stretch the floor for the Bulls. His eight 3-pointers broke Scottie Pippen's franchise record of seven threes in a playoff game.
Chicago had the third worst offense in the NBA this season and was ill-equipped to score without Rose heavily involved in the lineups. In the first two games of this series against the Wizards, the Bulls scored decently but couldn't get the necessary stops, which is completely uncharacteristic of them. In order to get back in the series, they were going to need a scoring explosion.
Dunleavy gave that to them and then some. The Wizards couldn't really find an answer for him in the first three quarters. 29 of his 35 points came in the first 36 minutes of the game and the more the Wizards' defense keyed in on him, the hotter his shooting seemed to get.
When the Bulls have faced adversity in the past, they've found a way to be resilient by having unsuspecting players step up. Dunleavy led that charge against the Wizards in a must-win Game 3. Had they lost the game, they'd be down 0-3 in the series and on their way out. They may still end up losing this series, but it wasn't going to start Friday night. They found the shooter they've been hoping to have since signing Dunleavy this past summer. They found their Korver replacement for now.
He stretched the floor and may have stretched the Bulls' season.