Bulls atop East -- now can they stay there?

CHICAGO -- With their 98-79 win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night, the Chicago Bulls moved a half game ahead of the Boston Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. It's a place the Bulls enjoy, but they know it means nothing if they can’t keep it over the final four weeks of the regular season.

"It's great," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "It's definitely great. It's great to be up there, but we all know ... it's March. It's still a long season, we've got to stay focused. What's happening right now is everyone's talking about us. Everyone is talking about how great we are. How we have the MVP. This guy's doing this ... and human nature, it's really easy to fall into that and think think that we're just going to walk out there and win. But that's not the case. We put in a lot of work to be where we are."

Derrick Rose agreed.

"It feels good," he said. "Like I've said, if we get it from winning, it always feels good. But [we're] just trying to put games together, play together. Tonight, once again, we let them come back. We shouldn't be doing that, but we'll learn from it and hopefully get better at it."

That's exactly the type of attitude that coach Tom Thibodeau wants to hear.

"Our thing is that we want to improve every day," Thibodeau said. "We want to play as well as we can, get the best record that we can and have the highest seed possible. If we are preparing the way that we are supposed to and doing the right thing, the results will take care of themselves."

Second half surge: Once again, the Bulls ramped up the defensive pressure in the second half, outscoring the Wizards, 48-33. What was Thibodeau's message in the locker room?

"He just said to go out there and play hard," Deng said. "It was clear. I think we all knew what we had to do, and we weren't really happy with the way we played the first half. I thought Washington played hard, they got guys missing, and we wanted to go out there and just play as hard as they were. We can't let them play harder than us the whole game."

The last word: Brian Scalabrine walked out of the locker room and told the media that if they wanted to write a story they should say that he was sorry he couldn't hit the 3-pointer that would have put the Bulls over 100 points -- and given all the fans in the United Center free Big Macs.