Chicago Sun-Times

Red-hot Bulls getting healthy on steady diet of cupcakes

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The Bulls became the first team in the NBA to win three consecutive games by 20 points or more this season when they ripped the New Orleans Hornets 90-67 on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.

And while it's easy to scoff at the competition -- the 11-14 Milwaukee Bucks (113-90), the 8-19 New Jersey Nets (108-87) and the 4-22 Hornets -- the totality of the Bulls' domination can't be ignored.

The Bulls were trailing for a combined 24 seconds over all three games -- Luc Mbah a Moute gave the Bucks a 2-0 lead in Milwaukee on Saturday before Derrick Rose settled the matter by scoring 13 points in the next 4:20. They led 30-16, 35-14 and 23-14 after the first quarter en route to halftime leads of 24, 25 and 13 points.

Or let's put it this way: they led by 10 points or more for more than 39 out of 48 minutes against the Bucks (39:29) and Hornets (39:23) and for nearly 44 minutes (43:54) against the Nets. That's the definition of cruising.

It's one thing to beat up on the weak in the NBA. But to do it as resolutely and completely as the Bulls have done -- and on the road -- is pretty impressive. The Heat faced the Bucks, Cavaliers and Pistons recently and lost by 9, won by 7 and won by 3. The Oklahoma City Thunder, which has the best record in the NBA, faced the Wizards, Nets, Pistons and Hornets in consecutive games recently and lost by 3, won by 10, won by 20 and won by 9.

A steady diet of struggling teams is not healthy for a championship contender. But there's something to be said for a young team taking care of business like the Bulls have.

''We're staying focused knowing we're on a mission,'' Rose said after the Hornets game. ''We can't take any steps back. We're learning. that's something I told you 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.''

The Bulls led 9-0 in the first 3:46 of the first quarter against the Hornets. Joakim Noah scored inside off an air by by Ronnie Brewer. Carlos Boozer scored off a feed from Luol Deng. Rose hit Deng for a three-pointer and hit a floater on the baseline.

The Hornets' Emeka Okafor scored after a time out, but Rose found Noah inside for a layup and after a steal by Brewer, Boozer hit a 16-footer off a pass from Rose for a 13-2 lead and he rout was on.

''We're doing a good job of being aggressive on offense and defense,'' Boozer said. ''We're very humble, but we're very hungry. We want to continue to improve every day.

''We did a good job of setting the tone defensively in the first quarter, trying to get deflections and get stops and then we did a good job offensively, executing our plays and getting the right shots and the lead just kept growing. For us, our mindset is to get better no matter who we play.''

After they play the 3-22 Charlotte Hornets on Friday night, it'll be interesting to see how the Bulls respond to a more competitive NBA team when they face the Boston Celtics in Boston on Sunday. Until then, they've earned the right to consider blowouts against inferior teams as a sign of progress.

''We're playing well. It shows a lot of maturity,'' Deng said. ''We've just got to keep doing it. We came a long way. We weren't doing that before. So we've got to stick with it.''

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on February 9, 2012 1:07 AM.

Rose feels better, will be game-time decision vs. Hornets was the previous entry in this blog.

Deng named to first All-Star team is the next entry in this blog.

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