CHICAGO — Derrick Rose scored 23 points in his return from back pain, and the Chicago Bulls beat the struggling Atlanta Hawks 90-79 on Monday.
Rose looked sharp after missing the previous five games, and the Bulls played more like championship contenders after a brutal loss to New Jersey two days earlier. They led by 18 through the first quarter and were up 55-37 at halftime, but found themselves hanging on in the end after a big push by Atlanta.
The Bulls were clinging to an 85-79 lead after a late 3-pointer by Jannero Pargo before Luol Deng nailed a 3 of his own to make it a nine-point game. Rose then buried a turnaround jumper to make it 90-79 with 2:10 remaining and Chicago prevailed, sending Atlanta to its seventh loss in 10 games.
Rose also had six assists and five rebounds. Carlos Boozer added 16 points, Ronnie Brewer had 13, and Deng and John Lucas 10 apiece. Joakim Noah chipped in with 16 rebounds.
Pargo provided a big spark off the bench for Atlanta with a season-high 19 points, hitting five 3-pointers. Josh Smith added 17 points and 12 rebounds, but the Hawks came up short again.
They showed little life in the early going after being blown out by Portland on Sunday and paid for it in the end. They were without Marvin Williams, who missed the game because of a death in the family, but it's hard to believe he would have made that big a difference with the way the Bulls played early on.
Coming off one of their ugliest performances in two seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau, they quickly rediscovered their form while taking control.
Rose was his usual explosive self, whether he was freezing Jeff Teague with a wicked crossover or burying jumpers. He scored nine in the first quarter as the Bulls grabbed a 35-17 lead, and he had plenty of help with Deng and Brewer each adding seven points. It was a big difference from Saturday, when Chicago fell behind 22-3 and never recovered.
Notes: Hawks coach Larry Drew said he met with Tracy McGrady to discuss his comments after Sunday's loss at Portland and that it was handled "in-house." McGrady made it clear he was upset about a lack of playing time, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I'm tired of this (garbage)."