For Bulls, D is the key

The Bulls have continued to pride themselves on intense play on the defensive end. Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

ATLANTA -- With the way the Bulls have dominated the past two nights offensively, it's easy to forget just how well they've played at times on the other end of the floor.

The players know the truth, though. No matter how well they play on offense, it's their defense that will get them to where they want to ultimately go.

"I think it starts with our defense," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "When our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When we're not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. We're kind of just going through the motions. It always starts with defense."

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose agreed.

"It's still defensively," Rose said of his team's mindset. "Sometimes it gets hard, but to win games, to win a championship, it takes defense. And we're just trying to stay together on defense, knowing that we can't take any steps back right now. We're trying to keep going. We're trying to push each other every day. Trying to get better. And I think that we're moving in the right direction."

Hot shooting continues: How hot were the Bulls in the first half Tuesday night? They shot 81 percent from the field in the second quarter.

"I never saw it," Rose said of the Bulls second quarter domination. "But I'm happy to be the team that's doing it instead of being on the other side. It was just one of them games."

Rose could see the confidence his team had shooting the ball during that stretch.

"You feel it as a player," he said. "Everything's going right, especially when you're playing defense. I think our defense really gets everything started with fastbreak, easy points. then we've got a lot of players on our team where when they get going, they can really take us to another level."

The last word: "They shot too high of a percentage. Defensively, there's a lot of things we can clean up. But I like the fact that we got the big lead. And I thought we played tough with the lead. And we want to be a 48 minute team. They outscored us in the fourth 21-16, so there's things we can correct and improve, but we got to keep the big picture in mind. I think the good teams in this league continue to get better as they go along. And at the end you want to be playing your best ball and you have to be healthy," - Thibodeau, on if anything disappointed him on Tuesday night.