New additions help Bulls win third straight

MINNEAPOLIS -- Vinny Del Negro was a little worried before Friday night's game about how all the new pieces of the Chicago Bulls would fit into place.

He knew that recent acquisitions Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray would make some mistakes and just hoped those mistakes wouldn't cost his team a victory.

Del Negro shouldn't have been very worried, though. After all, the Bulls have Derrick Rose. The Timberwolves do not.

The All-Star point guard had another solid performance on Friday night, scoring 19 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and five assists on the way to a 107-94 victory -- the Bulls’ third straight.

With the win, the Bulls move to two games over .500 for the first time since early November. Del Negro believes that his squad's recent hot play can be attributed to its defense. If you look at last game [against the Knicks] and this game, our defense has carried us," he said. "We're scoring enough points. We're spreading the game out, trying to put the ball in Derrick's hands in key situations and trying to feed off his penetration.

"But it comes down to defense for us. If we play defense and rebound the basketball, we're going to have opportunities on the break for guys to attack the basket. And if you can get some easy baskets, it takes a lot of pressure off your execution in a lot of areas."

Aside from Rose's performance, the Bulls got several solid efforts in this contest, namely from Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, who combined for 38 points. But what has to give Del Negro the most confidence is that Warrick (10 points, nine rebounds) and Murray (eight points, three rebounds) were able to provide a solid lift for his team off the bench.

"They know how to play," Del Negro said. "Of course, they're going to be a little bit uncomfortable in [terms of] where to be and rotations and things, but they know how to play and they gave us a boost."

Rose had high praise for his new teammates as well.

"They're just good players," he said. They fit in with us. They're good guys. They just want to win and I know we're just going to get better than what we played tonight."

While Warrick admitted that he was a little "anxious" before the game, he seemed to enjoy playing with the new group.

"It was just basketball," he said. "At times I got a little confused but my teammates did a good job of pointing me in the right direction, getting me in the right spot ... I just tried to be active and aggressive."

Warrick did both of those things and proved that for the short term, he will be just fine taking a majority of the minutes that Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons used to occupy.

"He gives us kind of a different dimension," Hinrich said of Warrick. "We lost that in Tyrus, but he can kind of fill that void for us."

Hinrich and Warrick meet again: It was kind of ironic seeing Hinrich and Warrick playing on the same team considering their history. Back in 2003, Warrick, then playing for Syracuse, helped lead the Orangemen past Hinrich's Kansas Jayhawks. Earlier this season, the pair got into a mini-scuffle during a game. Now, they're united. Even Warrick had to smile at the way their paths have crossed.

"It's kind of funny," Warrick said. "But, you just got to put it behind you. He's a great player and I always respected his game, even back then in college. It's good to have him on my team now."

Hinrich says he didn't even think about the coincidence.

"I let that go a while ago," he said with a laugh. “It took a while, but I let it go. Whenever you get out there with guys you've been playing against that have been in the league, it's a little different."

Line of the night: Hinrich, on the state of the team down the stretch: "I think we're playing well. I think there's still room for improvement. Obviously, we've got a bunch of new guys, so we have to get a little more organized but I think night in, night out, our energy and effort has been there. We just have to keep trying to get better and keep going. This is kind of the final stretch here. I think we're set to have a good finish."