Chicago, IL – Luol Deng finished with a game-high 22 points and Richard Hamilton added 19, as the Chicago Bulls welcomed back Derrick Rose with a 93-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks, putting themselves on the brink of clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Coupled with the Heat's loss to Washington on Saturday, the Bulls hold a 2 1/2-game lead over Miami with two to play. Miami has three games remaining.
Chicago's cushion has dwindled over the past two months with Rose limited due to injuries, but the reigning MVP was in the lineup Saturday and totaled 11 points and eight assists. Rose missed the previous three games due to an injured foot.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 17 points, while Rodrigue Beaubois and Vince Carter chipped in 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Dallas, in its penultimate regular season test, rested guards Jason Terry and Jason Kidd in the second game of a back-to-back. The Mavericks, who are tied with the Nuggets for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, finish the season at Atlanta on Thursday.
The Bulls, coming off an 11-point loss to Miami, held the Mavs to eight points in the opening quarter and scoring 21 themselves -- 10 coming from Hamilton.
The Mavs pulled within 44-38 at halftime and took their first lead, 56-55, on a Delonte West jumper with three minutes left in the third.
Chicago responded with an 11-0 run to end the quarter, with Deng's three- pointer beating the buzzer for a 10-point lead.
The closest the visitors got in the fourth was 78-76 with 4 1/2 minutes to go, and the Bulls put the game away with a 12-3 flurry. Kyle Korver and Deng each hit from long range during the surge.
The Bulls swept the season series...Rose had missed 16 of the previous 19 games...Deng made four of Chicago's nine three-pointers...Carlos Boozer chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, whose center, Joakim Noah, pulled down a game-high 14 boards.