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Rose returns, leads Bulls past Hawks


This news story was published on February 20, 2012.
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By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Derrick Rose had never before sat for five straight games in his NBA career, so the deafening roar that drowned out his name after public-address announcer Tommy Edwards began “From Chicago …” didn’t surprise.

(PHOTO: Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) drives to the basket past Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (6) during the first half of their game at the United Center, in Chicago, Illinois, Monday, February 20, 2012.)

But when close to the same roar accompanied Rose merely dribbling on the Bulls’ first possession Monday, the impact of his absence became more fully felt.

His teammates didn’t cheer, at least publicly. They merely benefited from Rose’s aggressive presence that featured 23 points, six assists, five rebounds and four turnovers in the Bulls’ 90-79 matinee victory over Atlanta.

“It was awesome to watch,” Carlos Boozer said.

Rose, who had been sidelined by back spasms, logged close to 35 minutes and, in an atypical move, didn’t appear in the postgame locker room to address reporters. He spoke to ESPN’s Doris Burke on the court afterward.

“The whole week I was seeing a great chiropractor,” Rose told Burke. “Teammates and fans were waiting for me to come back. I was feeling good and just trying to play the way I normally play — aggressive.

“My teammates followed me. Coach did a great job with the game plan. (My back) feels good. I have to put a little ice on there. I should be all right.”

Boozer added 16 points for the Bulls, who have won 13 straight regular-season games following a loss. Joakim Noah rebounded from his rough outing on Saturday to grab 16 rebounds, helping the Bulls to a 51-41 advantage on the boards and 18-4 edge in second-chance points.

But Rose dominated attention. He survived a hard tumble after drawing a foul on Josh Smith for a three-point play midway through the third quarter.

“You don’t want him to change who he is,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You’re always concerned about health. But a guy could get hurt in practice or shootaround. That’s part of the game.

“He’s done a good job with his rehab. Our trainers have done a great job with him. As long as he’s pain-free and feels 100 percent, we felt comfortable. He met all the criteria that we were looking for him to meet before he played again. So we’re good.”

Actually, not everything was. For the second straight game, the Bulls started slow, forcing Thibodeau to burn a 20-second timeout early in which he blistered the starters. They responded with an 11-0 run as Rose scored nine first-quarter points.

But an eventual 21-point lead with just over 4 minutes to play in the third quarter got quickly whittled to nine heading into the fourth. Former Bull Jannero Pargo heated up with three 3-pointers.

Then the Hawks, who played without Marvin Williams and with an ineffective Joe Johnson trying to battle through knee soreness, pulled within five in the fourth. Rose almost lost the ball before shoveling it to Luol Deng, whose 3-pointer with 2:59 left marked his first points since the first quarter and provided breathing room.

“Derrick’s explosion was there,” Thibodeau said. “His drives were there. Conditioning-wise, he’s not where he normally is. But that’s to be expected. Overall, I’m very pleased. He said he felt real good out there.”

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