Despite wins, Bulls troubled by recent play

CHICAGO -- With Saturday night's 100-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls have now won 13 of their past 15 games.

Please forgive Derrick Rose if he is not as excited as he could be. He sees the flaws in his team, the lack of energy and the Bulls’ nasty habit of playing down to their competition.

"It's scary," he told ESPNChicago.com after the game. "Where we come up and we try to fight. It just isn't going our way. Hopefully it changes some time soon, but it has to change fast."

If it doesn't, the Bulls aren't going to get to where they want to go this season. Let's be real: The Cavs stink. So do the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, all teams the Bulls have struggled to beat over the past two weeks.

Yes, the Bulls are winning, and yes, they are playing without Joakim Noah. But the Bulls still have more talent than most teams in the league and yet they continue to have problems finishing weaker opponents.

Rose knows that his team can't play this way against the league’s elite teams.

"We're going to get whupped," Rose said. "There's no way [we can play like this]. We can't come out like that. We just got to hurry up and play our way and continue to play that way."

But what is the problem? Why do the Bulls continue to have long stretches where they either play with little energy or struggle to find a groove on either end of the court.

"I really don't know," Rose said. "If we would have knew that answer, trust me, we wouldn't be playing like this, but we'll have to find out what's going on and we'll get back on the right track."

As far as Saturday night's game was concerned, the Bulls absolutely manhandled the Cavs in the third quarter. They outscored Cleveland 32-9 and held the Cavs to 14 percent shooting from the field in a 12-minute stretch that Rose called "mind-boggling."

"In the first half, we basically got our butts whipped," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "They kicked our butt. They played great. On offense, it seemed like we couldn't stop anybody. We came in the locker room, we critiqued each other, looked ourselves in the mirror and said, ‘We got to play better defense.’ And we came out and they only had nine points in the third quarter. And that was where the game was won for us at."

It wasn't a fiery Thibodeau speech that got the Bulls going, though. The players knew they were playing badly and finally did something about it.

"It was us," Boozer said. "It was the guys. It was the team. We all came in and started talking to each other before he got in the room. And we told each other, ‘We got to hold each other accountable and play better D. If we want to win the game we got to start locking up.’ And that's what we did."

Thibodeau knows his team isn't playing as well as it should be, but he is confident that things will start to turn around.

"We'll take the wins any way we can get them," he said. "We know we have to improve in a number of areas. We have some practice time where we know we can work on stuff so we have to take advantage of that. You look at the overall picture and I think defensively we are never satisfied and want it to be great. And offensively, it will come. I think we are still finding our way offensively ... we are striving to be a balanced team."

There is no question the Bulls are heading the right direction. They are 12 games over .500 for the first time since March of 2007, which is quite an accomplishment. But if they continue to play down to their competition, they won’t knock off the best teams in the league in April and May. And they know it.