Bulls' pitch perfect in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS -- Listening to Tom Thibodeau speak after games this week is like listening to a rickety old juke box that plays the same song on repeat over and over again.
For Thibodeau and his players, the tune continues to sound just fine. Yet again they came out and absolutely dominated a terrible opponent on Wednesday night, crushing the New Orleans Hornets 90-67. Even Thibodeau, ever the perfectionist, is pleased with the way his team is playing. It's not even so much that they continue to win -- it's that the Bulls come out from the jump and just break team's wills.
"We try not to change our approach from game to game," Thibodeau said. "Practice, every practice the same. The challenge is to study, prepare, and when the ball goes up, know your opponent well. And know what you're going to try and get accomplished. I think if you build that habit, then you continually work on it and do the right things every day, the results will take care of themselves."
The Bulls have won the past three games against the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets and Hornets by a combined 67 points. They've played suffocating defense at various stretches and they have getting clean looks at the basket most of the night.
"We're learning how to play with the lead," Bulls' forward Luol Deng said. "There's times when teams get a run, but we're better at it now than we were last year. There's a lot of times where we played well and we let teams get into it. And there's times when we played bad and played from behind. But I think guys are more comfortable, you're more confident when you come out and play with a lead."
So how have the Bulls, who have coasted at various points in games against bad teams earlier in the year, seemingly turned the corner? The players believe it all comes back to having the right mental approach.
"Staying focused," Bulls' point guard Derrick Rose said. "Knowing that we're on a mission and we can't take any steps back. It takes us playing with a lot of energy in the beginning, getting a comfortable enough lead that if [the starters] are out of the game, the bench can come in and do what they have to do."
As usual, the Bulls' bench gives Thibodeau a weapon most other teams don't have -- depth. Led by Taj Gibson, who had 14 points, the Bulls' reserves combined for 39 points and 19 rebounds. Not to mention the fact that the team's defense is as crisp as it's been all year. For a team that is now 22-6, the thought that the Bulls are actually getting better is a scary one for the rest of the league.
"We're learning," Rose said. "That's something that we had to work on. For the last couple of games, we've been jumping on people. And that's the right way to be."