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Bulls come out with an edge, put away Wizards

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



WASHINGTON — The Bulls have reached the point in the season where these no longer are just road games, they’re business trips.

That means there is no room for off nights — not with a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference still in the crosshairs.

So entering Monday night’s game against a basement dweller in the Washington Wizards, it was about the haves taking care of the have-nots.

Mission accomplished.

Behind a team-high 21 points from both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the Bulls (41-17) stayed within reach of Boston and Miami by dominating the Wizards 105-77 at the Verizon Center.

As far as Rose was concerned, it was another positive step heading into March, with the All-Star pointing out there have been too many let-down games this season against lesser opponents.

“Come out with an edge,’’ Rose said of the attitude the Bulls need to take the remainder of the year. “When we have to play against good teams, we come out and there will already be that tension where we can come out and be aggressive the whole game. But teams like [the Wizards], a team under .500, we tend to lack that at the beginning of the game — and they get confidence. Then it’s a very tough game. If we come out aggressive and with that edge, we’ll be fine.’’

That “edge’’ was displayed right away, as the Bulls jumped out to a 12-4 lead behind Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, and by the end of the first quarter had outrebounded the Wizards (15-44) 18-7.

“I thought our mind-set was right from the beginning,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We got established defensively, and the rebounding was outstanding to start the game — and I thought that gave us an advantage. We were ready to play.’’

Translation: Losing to a team such as the Raptors like the Bulls did on Feb. 23, well, those can’t happen the rest of the way out. TheNo. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is power — not only the power of home-court, but the power to avoid the likes of Miami and Boston until the conference finals.

“You have to,’’ Rose replied when asked if watching the standings on a nightly basis is a new hobby. “We’re in that same little group where everyone is comparing us. It wouldn’t be bad to get that No. 1 spot.’’

Not that the top seed guarantees anything, but it would make all Game 7s have to go through the Windy City.

“I mean, [Orlando] is as talented as anyone, so I don’t think anyoneis looking at that second-round match-up as a cakewalk,’’ forward Kyle Korver said. “Obviously, the top three teams are getting most of the hype. There’s no team that really wants to play either one of them, either.’’

Besides winning a game they should have on Monday, more good news for the Bulls came with Noah’s continued resurgence after missing 30 games in the wake of right thumb surgery. His fourth game back, Noah scored 19 and pulled down 11 rebounds.

“Great, great,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s back almost to the point he was before the injury. His activity is off the charts. His defense is terrific, his rebounding his very good, and you can see him starting to get a lot more comfortable offensively now as well.’’

All well and good, but Noah felt like there was plenty of room for improvement still out there for him, which could be bad news for the rest of the East.

“It’s really exciting to be playing on a team that’s capable of doing something very exciting,’’ Noah added. “On to the next one.’’



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