NEWARK, N.J. -- Just like his team, Tom Thibodeau didn't even think about slowing down when talking about his favorite part of the Chicago Bulls' 108-87 destruction of the New Jersey Nets on Monday night.
"The start," Thibodeau blurted out. "I thought readiness to play. First quarter -- defensively, offensively it was very good."
For the second game in a row, the Bulls blitzed a bad team and put their foot on the gas. And for the second game in a row, the Bulls rode a hot hand (in this case Luol Deng, who was 5-for-5 from the field for 13 points in the first quarter) and absolutely torched an opponent. After shooting 61 percent in the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, the Bulls followed that up by shooting 64 percent from the field against the Nets. If the mark of a good team is not giving bad teams any hope of stealing a win early, the Bulls continue to mature before everyone's eyes.
"We're learning," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "That's a good thing. I think we're finally getting the message that Thibs is telling us in the beginning of games. We're putting teams away. We're not giving them any confidence -- what we always say. Our energy has just been great."
The energy that Rose speaks of seems to be the biggest difference for the Bulls of late. Instead of muddling through the first 12 minutes of the game, as the Bulls have done at various points throughout the year, Thibodeau has gotten his team to tear off like an Olympic sprinter.
"I think we're just coming out with a lot of energy," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "We're not waiting to pick it up. We're coming out, our defense has been great in the first quarter. We just got to keep doing that, and we're playing very unselfishly on the offensive end."
The Bulls had 29 assists on the night. Combine that with the 31 they had against Milwaukee and that gives the Bulls have 60 assists in the past two games. Most teams around the league would be happy to get that in three or four contests. Not the Bulls.
"We want to play like that every day," Deng said. "There's times where you have a lot of energy. Times where you don't have energy. But I think right now, we're not just playing hard. We're also playing smart. And that's the difference."
It's a difference that the players are taking pride in. They enjoy the peace of mind that comes when they've broken a team's will early. They enjoy the fact that the chants for Brian Scalabrine are starting even earlier. Most of all, they enjoy the fact that they are now 21-6 -- owners of the best record in the league.
"I think we're being really aggressive," Bulls guard Kyle Korver said. "We're not easing into games. Guys are attacking. We're getting out on the break. We started off shooting the ball really well. The last couple games we've hit several threes in the first quarter, that just kind of spreads out the defense. And we've got guys that are able to attack ... the floor just seems really, really, spread right now."