For months now, the New Orleans Pelicans and their coach Monty Williams have talked about defense.

But too often their words have sounded more like cheap banter.

That all changed – at least for a night – on Saturday when the Pelicans beat the defensive-minded Chicago Bulls at their own game, taking an 88-79 victory before an announced crowd of 17,799 at the New Orleans Arena.

“That’s something we can look at and say we can play this type of defensive every night,” Williams said. “Like I told our guys, you just won a man’s game. You can’t play any more physical than that, without being in a fight. It was good to win a game like that.”

The Pelicans, widely considered one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams despite Williams’ philosophies and coaching principles, turned in a tough and rugged performance.

The Bulls entered the game known for their defensive prowess, ranking second in the league in points allowed and third in opponents field goal percentage. But Pelicans’ defense clearly upstaged them.

“We all know the Bulls are one of the most physical teams in the NBA,” Pelicans guard Austin Rivers said. “That’s what they are known for. So tonight we knew we had to be physical, especially because we won a tough game in Chicago that went three overtimes.

“I feel like I just got out of a fistfight. I am sore as heck. Tomorrow we’ll just have to recover.”

They limited the Bulls to 38.6 percent shooting from the field, blocked 14 shots and forced the Bulls into 17 turnovers. And the 79 points scored by the Bulls were the fewest allowed by the Pelicans this season.

The Pelicans also held the Bulls to 23 or less points in all four quarters, including 18 in both the second and third quarters.

Despite getting to the free throw line 33 times to just 10 for the Pelicans, the Bulls were not able to overcome the Pelicans swarming defense.

“This was going to be a bit of a fight from a basketball standpoint,” Williams said. “I am just trying to get our guys to understand that that’s just playoff basketball. Let me do the whining to the referees and you guys just got to keep playing.”

Meanwhile, the Pelicans were efficient offensively, moving the ball well and penetrating into the paint.

Anthony Davis led the way, scoring 24 points and grabbing eight rebounds. He also had six blocks, as the Pelicans (20-26) won for the fifth time in their last seven games.

Tyreke Evans was the only other Pelicans in double digits, scoring 11 points. He also had six assists.

Davis seemed relatively pleased with the Pelicans’ effort. But he said there still is room for improvement.