Lock-down D propels Bulls

NEWARK, N.J. -- Joakim Noah has heard Tom Thibodeau talk about defense so many times this season that he can hear the Chicago Bulls coach's voice in his mind when he speaks to the media.

"We're doing the same things every day," Noah said after the Bulls' most recent defensive effort on Thursday night, when they held the New Jersey Nets to just 73 points. "It's almost becoming more and more routine. Thibs is preaching the same stuff and even when we're doing interviews and stuff, I always end up saying what he's saying to us all the time, and everybody's saying the same things in interviews. It's funny, but you know what? Thibs, he knows what he's talking about and we're listening."

That's becoming more evident by the day. The Bulls locked down the Nets when it mattered most, holding them to just 35 percent shooting from the floor and proving why Chicago is one of the most consistent defensive teams in the league.

"That's what we've been doing the whole year -- playing defense," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "If our offense isn't going, that rarely happens, but if it's not, we'll rely on our defense and that's what we did tonight: Make it tough on them. At first, they were getting everything that they wanted, then we just closed down the paint and rebounded the ball."

That was especially true in the third quarter as the Bulls held the Nets to just 24 percent shooting from the field.

"Our defense has been great," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "Our defense has been great all year. We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but holding a team like that to 73 points says a lot about our D. Especially a team who just won five in a row and beat a good team in their last game, so their confidence was pretty high coming into this game."

Noah feeling bad: Joakim Noah managed just five points and 10 rebounds on Thursday night, but his teammates and coaches were just impressed he was out there at all. The 26-year-old center has been battling the flu and admitted that he wasn't close to being 100 percent.

"I felt pretty terrible," Noah said. "But I just wanted to be out there and help my team. And I think that we're playing good basketball. I don't feel like I'm playing my best but I know somebody can step in and play the way O played, that's huge. And I'm just going to keep working and get back to 100 percent as soon as I can."

"He's not quite 100 percent," Thibodeau added. "But today he just battled through it. And I've got a lot of respect for that. That's great leadership for us."

The last word: "Just staying consistent throughout the whole game. Turnovers, our lack of energy, sometimes in a game it goes down a little bit and we get careless. I hate to say it, but bored. Then [the other team] can easily come back or change the game. Then we've got to hustle back into the game or get the momentum again," - Rose, when asked what the Bulls could possibly do to become even better and be the type of "48-minute team" he always talks about becoming.