Derrick Rose made an immediate impact on his return to the Chicago Bulls lineup on Monday as last season’s Most Valuable Player scored a game-high 23 points in a 90-79 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
The All-Star guard missed five consecutive games with lower back spasms but showed little effect of the layoff, contributing six assists and five rebounds.
“He makes the game easy for everybody,” Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer told reporters.
Rose, who played almost 35 minutes, said he was not experiencing new problems with the back.
“It feels good,” he added. “I have got to put a little ice on there, but I should be alright.”
Chicago raced to a 35-17 first quarter advantage and led by 21 points in the third quarter before Atlanta pulled within six with three minutes to play on reserve Jannero Pargo’s fifth three-pointer of the game.
But Luol Deng countered with a three-pointer for Chicago and Rose added a jumper to restore the Bulls’ double-digit lead.
The win, the 12th in 14 home games, kept the Bulls close on the heels of the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference lead while Atlanta, sixth in the conference, lost for the seventh time in 10 games.
Carlos Boozer added 16 points and Brewer finished with 13 for the Bulls while Joakim Noah dominated the boards with a game-high 16 rebounds.
The victory came two days after the Bulls were handed a 12-point loss by the New Jersey Nets while playing without Rose.
Pargo paced the Hawks with 19 points while Josh Smith had 17 and a team-high 12 rebounds.
“Whenever you come back home, you definitely want to play well. You have your family, your friends here,” said Pargo, a Chicago native who previously played for the Bulls.
“But unfortunately we did not get the win.”
» ‘Important’ for high-profile athletes to speak out on social issues, says US President Barack Obama
» Warriors nip Bulls behind career-best from Draymond Green, push win streak to 12 games
» Bulls’ Derrick Rose warms up in ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirt in nod to Eric Garner protests