What the Bulls' Kyle Korver must be thinking

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Chicago Bulls small forward Kyle Korver (26) shoots a three pointer against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center on Friday, January 27, 2012. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

Kyle Korver made five three-pointers in the Bulls’ win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night, but he wasn’t in that zone where a shooter feels like he can’t miss. That happens only rarely.

He was feeling it when he made five threes against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 6, for example.

This time? Not so much.

‘‘I didn’t feel like it was that great, actually,” he said matter-of-factly. ‘‘I got some good looks and knocked some in, but it wasn’t that night.”

Such is life for a shooter, chasing that elusive and difficult-to-define vibe that makes jumpers rain from the sky. Korver worked hard on improving his defense during the offseason, and it has paid off. He’s a much better defender than he was a year ago. But he’s not out there for his defense. He’s not on the floor to rebound or pile up assists, either. He’s a shooter, pure and simple.

When his shots are falling, life is good.

‘‘If I’m not making shots, I’m not going to have a job,” he said. ‘‘That’s the reality. You understand that, but at the same time, if you get too bogged down by that, you can get yourself in a rut pretty quick.”

Avoiding ruts is important when your livelihood is linked to your three-point percentage. Korver has been around long enough to know statistics aren’t the only measure of how he’s playing. He also knows this is a bottom-line business.

‘‘The reality is, as deep as this team is, sometimes you’re going to miss and sometimes you aren’t,” he said. ‘‘Sometimes you’re going to get a lot of shots, and sometimes it’s kind of hard. Three or four games go by and you didn’t shoot that well and you got a couple good looks and a couple not-so-good looks and it’s real easy to get down on yourself. The big thing is not looking at the stats or the percentages or worrying about where you’re at and just going out every single day and trying to find that rhythm and shooting your shots.”

Korver gets more open looks when Derrick Rose attacks the basket the way he has in recent games. Defenses start collapsing on Rose in the paint, and there’s Korver all alone behind the three-point line with time to gather himself for a wide-open shot. That’s how he can make defenses pay. When defenders come out to guard him, Rose has more room to work.

‘‘The three-point shot with Derrick is critical,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday in reference to Korver’s success. ‘‘It opens up the floor.”

When Korver is on the floor with the first team, he gets more open shots. They’re more difficult to come by when he’s running with the Bench Mob because of the attention he receives defensively. When that happens, he only has a split second to catch and shoot the ball.

‘‘He’s an elite scorer,” backup point guard John Lucas III said. ‘‘When he comes in, they all key on him because they know what he can do. He can flat-out shoot the ball. Give him any kind of space, and it’s flat-out going in. That just shows the respect everybody has for him coming off the bench. He opens it up for everybody else.”

Korver missed two three-pointers early in Monday’s game but kept gunning.

‘‘The first couple years, especially early in your career when you’re trying to make a name for yourself and prove yourself, it’s real easy to put so much pressure on each shot,” he said. ‘‘When you do that, normally it doesn’t work out too well for you, at least not consistently. You learn you have to take good shots, be aggressive and don’t take shots that are going to take you out of your rhythm.”

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