Rose, Butler star as Bulls top Bucks in Game 1

Chicago, IL ( - The Bulls will be a tough out if Derrick Rose plays like he did on Saturday.

Rose looked as healthy as he has all season and netted 23 points to lead third-seeded Chicago to a 103-91 win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Rose's career has been filled with injuries and lost seasons since his MVP campaign in 2010-11. He's missed nearly 50 games per season over his last three, including 31 this season, and hadn't appeared in a postseason game since tearing his ACL in 2012 against Philadelphia.

But the explosiveness and creativity that made Rose one of the league's best talents four years ago made a timely cameo, helping him finish 9-for-16 from the floor with seven assists.

"I feel good. I feel normal," said Rose. "I'm grateful to be playing with my teammates that I have right now. They allow me to play the way I normally play, and it's an honor."

Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 25 points and Pau Gasol posted 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who will host Milwaukee in Game 2 on Monday.

"It was good to have them out there again," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, referring to his starting backcourt of Rose and Butler. "It's been a long process for them, and it obviously makes our team a lot different. They got off to a great start."

Khris Middleton scored 18 points to lead five Bucks in double figures.

"We did a solid job of trying to fight and hang in there when they got the lead," said Middleton. "We have to make some adjustments and then we'll be fine."

The Bucks scored on their first five possessions to take a quick 10-4 lead. They opened the game 10-for-14 from the floor and only missed nine shots in the first quarter, but Aaron Brooks banked in 3-pointer at the horn to give the Bulls a 30-29 edge after one.

Rose sat for more than six minutes in the first quarter and looked fresh when he checked back in at 8:06 of the second. He scored on two straight possessions after checking in to make it 46-39, darted through two defenders for a reverse layup at 5:00 and again scored on consecutive touches late in the frame.

Rose shot 5-for-5 in the quarter and Chicago led 60-51 at halftime.

Middleton scored six during Milwaukee's 8-2 run to open the third. Out of a timeout, Butler fed Joakim Noah for a layup then sank two free throws before Rose once again took over.

Rose, who shot just 28 percent from behind the arc this season and missed his first three attempts on Saturday, made three 3-pointers in a 2 1/2-minute window to extend the lead into double figures.

That's where it stayed for most of the rest of the game.

Game Notes

The Bulls won the season series 3-1 and have won five straight games overall going back to the regular season ... Chicago improved to 18-5 this season when Rose, Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Gasol and Noah started ... Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (left knee) did not dress ... Ersan Ilyasova scored 15 points for Milwaukee.