SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For the first time in three games, Derrick Rose saw flashes of the team that compiled a 62-20 record during a breakout 2010-11 campaign.
The Bulls tried to push the tempo all night and it worked; they racked up 33 fastbreak points in a 108-98 win over the Sacramento Kings.
"We were running," Rose said. "Playing in a groove. Guys are really shooting the ball. My assists are going to be very high this year, I think. And we just got to keep winning, that's the biggest thing right now."
After playing sluggish during the first two games of the season, Rose repeatedly said that he wanted to push the pace whenever he was given the chance on Thursday night -- and he stuck to that script. Rose and the Bulls ran the ball up the floor, doing exactly the type of things Tom Thibodeau continually preached about in practice.
"I think [it's] big," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said of the tempo. "Because we don't just want to settle in a halfcourt offense. When you get late in the season, playoffs and stuff like that, you've got to figure out a way to get easy baskets. And that's what Coach tried to emphasize, get out and run. Don't be so caught up in running a set play. Run for a layup first and then call a play."
The difference was obvious. When the Bulls attack, they can run past almost everyone in the league. It was a needed change for a team that was trying to find its way on both ends of the floor.
"We made an emphasis that we need to start playing faster," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "And I think we're definitely better when we run. We got a big lead. We got to find a way to keep building on that, but we definitely need to run more."
As Noah pointed out, for as well as the Bulls played in spurts against the Kings, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The defense was porous and the ball handling was sloppy at times (18 turnovers).
Still, given how frustrated the locker room had been after Monday night's loss to the Golden State Warriors, Thibodeau will take it.
"The difference in tonight's game and the Golden State game was the start of the game," Thibodeau said. "I thought we tried to do the right things at Golden State. But we turned the ball over and put them in the open floor. So we got in a hole right away. In this game, we came out and we were attacking and we got the lead. We played from ahead. In every game, there's some good things and some bad things and we still have a long way to go. But I liked the way we approached things ... I thought our guys practiced well. And usually when you practice well you play well."
When the Bulls run well, both Thibodeau and Rose agree, they usually play well. The key for the Bulls is getting back to the basics of last season and for them, that means speeding up the game whenever possible.
"We're great when we're aggressive on the break and we're pushing the ball," Rose said. "We have great shooters on the team that really know their job when they spot up. If they don't have the shot, pass the ball back out and we run the set."