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Rose says tough defense key to winning

Derrick Rose’s whirling-dervish moves to the basket are the talk of the town as well as the NBA.

But the MVP front-runner points to something else when asked about the Bulls’ hopes of making good on their NBA championship promise.

Tough defense.

“If you want to win, to separate yourself from all other teams in the NBA, you’ll do it,’’ Rose said. “We have good guys on this team. They’re winners. They do extra stuff. You don’t want to be the one who messes up a practice because other teams are having great practices. That could put you back a little bit. We just try to come in and work hard every day, especially on the defensive side.’’

That has added up to a defense that — before Monday’s games — ranked first in opponents’ field-goal shooting (42.8 percent), opponents’ three-point shooting (32.7 percent) and second in points allowed (91.1 a game) and rebounds per game (44.4) and fifth in blocks per game (5.72).

“The commitment was made early on in September, with guys coming in early to be in great shape,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The challenge for us was to see how quickly we could get everyone on the same page and tie it together. The fact that we were able to add some guys who had done it before helped move us along quickly.’’

It’s not your everyday NBA defense. It resembles the Boston defense, which Thibodeau helped develop into one of the NBA’s best as an assistant.

“It’s definitely weird,’’ Rose said. “He’ll say something about them, how good they are. We’re kind of the same team. We both over-help on the defensive side. Usually people do that in college. That’s not normal NBA defense. Most NBA teams leave you out on an island. We help everywhere, and we depend on each other.’’

The Bulls have held their opponents to 85 points or less 27 times this season, tops in the NBA, and have gone 25-2 in those games. That included a 12-0 mark in the league-high 12 games they have held their opponents under 80 points.

Another trait Thibodeau brought over from Boston is talkative defense.

“We’re definitely vocal,’’ Rose said. “He makes us be vocal. He makes sure we call out our defensive plays. We send people certain ways. With [Carlos] Boozer, you will definitely hear everything that’s going on if he’s on the court.’’

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