All-Star guard Derrick Rose made a triumphant return to the Chicago Bulls lineup by scoring a game-high 23 points in a 90-79 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
The National Basketball Association's reigning Most Valuable Player missed five consecutive games with lower back spasms but showed little effect of the layoff, contributing six assists and five rebounds.
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 Ronnie Brewer finished with 13 for the Bulls while Joakim Noah dominated the boards with a game-high 16 rebounds.
Pargo paced the Hawks with 19 points and Josh Smith had 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
(Reporting By Gene Cherry in Salvo North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)