Tuesday night’s 107-103 win over the reeling, injury-riddled Hawks at Philips Arena was far from a thing of beauty for fans to watch, but to the Bulls, it’s symbolic of how far they’ve come.

Remember earlier this season, with or without the likes of Derrick Rose or Luol Deng in the lineup? The Bulls were losing games they were supposed to win, not making plays down the stretch and playing down to inferior competition in general.

These days, it’s a different story. For instance, Kirk Hinrich suffered through a 3-for-12 shooting performance, but his clutch play — from steals on crucial Atlanta possessions, to clutch free throws and of course, the phantom foul he drew on a three-point attempt at the end of the shot clock in the fourth quarter — was a major reason the Bulls prevailed Tuesday.

“You’ve got to do that. There’s going to be games where you don’t shoot the ball well. I felt like I had some good looks in the first half,” the veteran floor general said, before explaining how he drew the aforementioned foul. “I knew I would have let it go with the normal release, he was going to block it. The clock was down. It was the only option I had.”

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, as usual, understood that Hinrich’s value went far beyond his 14 points.

“Those were big free throws. Obviously the three that he made, that was huge. To me, at the end of the game, particularly one in which we didn’t play great, but doing whatever’s necessary to win is the important thing,” he said. “We’ve got to scratch them out. That’s what we have to do.”

“We didn’t shoot the ball great obviously, but I thought the toughness to fight out of the hole, that was one thing,” the coach went on to explain. “There were a lot of tough plays, some hustle plays, that I thought made all the difference in the world.”

All-Star center Joakim Noah, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds on his 29th birthday, chimed in: “’Kirky’ was huge. He hit big free throws, steals. That was huge for this team. He just brings the energy on the defensive end and makes sure everybody’s in the right spot on offense, and he’s playing really confident, good basketball for us.