Chicago Sun-Times

Bulls batter, not better

They’re crushing foes, butare theyimprov­ing?


The Bulls are good. But are they getting any better beating up on undermanne­d, basketball-challenged teams?

It’s difficult to know for sure after the Bulls routed the 4-22 Hornets 90-67 on Wednesday in New Orleans to become the first team this season to win three consecutiv­e games by 20 points or more.

The Bulls have won four straight road games after a 16-point loss to the 76ers lastweek. But they beat the 11-15 Knicks when Jeremy Lin was out with a severe case of anonymity; the 11-14 Bucks, whowerewit­hout injured center Andrew Bogut; the 8-19 Nets, who were without three starters; and the 4-22 Hornets, who were missing Eric Gordon, Carl Landry and Jason Smith.

Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t bristle often, if at all. But he gets the same quizzical look on his face when asked anything that might imply a win is anything less than a win.

‘‘I don’t understand the question,’’ he said when asked if beating the hapless Hornets might have been an ‘‘ugly’’ game. ‘‘We’re just pleased with the win. [Chris] Kaman came in, he gets some shots on us. And they’re dangerous. As they get their players back, they’ll be fine.

‘‘So the challenge is to be ready to play — and I thought we did that. You’re right — there are a lot of things we could do better. That’s what we have to strive for. We have to make improvemen­ts . . . build solid habits. And just keep our eye on what’s in front of us.’’

That would be the 3-22 Bobcats in Charlotte on Friday. The Bobcats have lost 12 in a row and 22 of their last 23 games. They’ve already lost five games by 30 points or more.

After this stretch, playing the Celtics on Sunday in Boston might be a shock to the Bulls’ system.

‘‘We’re not concerned with that,’’ said forward Carlos Boozer, who’s averaging 15.5 points on 61 percent shooting (28-for-46) in four victories since he scored nine points on 4-for-11 shooting in the 98-82 loss to the 76ers.

‘‘We take them one day at a time. [Wednesday] we played the New Orleans Hornets. We did a good job being ready for them. Our next game is against the Charlotte Bobcats. We’ll get prepared for them. And we’ll move forward from that. Our approach is the same, no matter who we play. We want to continue to improve every day.’’

It remains to be seen if the Bulls can actually do that against competitio­n that puts up such little resistance. But the Bulls’ recent blowouts have been so complete, there’s another possibilit­y to consider — that the up-and-coming Bulls are that good.

In their routs of the Bucks, Nets and Hornets, the Bulls were trailing for a combined 24 seconds. The Bulls have led 30-16, 35-14 and 2314 after the first quarter en route to halftime leads of 24, 25 and 13 points. They led by 10 points or more for more than 39 out of 48 minutes against the Bucks (39:29) and Hornets (39:23) and for nearly 44 minutes (43:54) against thenets. That’s the definition of cruising. ‘’We’re staying focused knowing we’re on a mission,’’ guard Derrick Rose said. ‘’We can’t take any steps back. We’re learning. That’s something I told you we had to work on. For the last couple of games, we’ve been jumping on people, and that’s the right way to be.’’

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