Derrick Rose returned, and everything was right in the Chicago Bulls’ world.
Rose looked out of rhythm early after missing the previous five games because of problems brought on by an earlier toe injury.
But after the Atlanta Hawks took a quick lead with a good transition game, Rose and the Bulls took over, leveling the Hawks with a 23-5 run in the first half.
Rose drove hard to the basket, back to showing his speed and strength, even taking a fall and landing hard on the NBA most valuable back. But he popped up and later hit from the outside, finding his aim.
And everything opened up.
Rose and the Bulls had chances, believe me. All the Bulls had chances and second chances because of the way they pounded the offensive boards. Heck, pounded the boards altogether with a 30-13 rebounding advantage that led to a 55-37 lead at halftime.
The Bulls are going nowhere without a healthy, aggressive, dominating Rose, and the Bulls know it. Whatever else happened in the game, the first half was a welcome reminder of that.
“He picked the pace up for all of us,’’ Carlos Boozer said. “He was out energy.
Rose had 14 points in 16 first-half minutes, so it wasn’t just Rose. But in case you forgot what he means to the Bulls, see his teammates for details.
Joakim Noah came off that miserable game against the Nets with his customary energy to grab 11 rebounds and add four points. Ronnie Brewer had space and nine points. Boozer worked the post and the mid-range for eight points. Luol Deng got started late, but he made the second unit go, along with the revelation that is becoming Mike James.
And that’s another thing: The second unit was back to being the “Bench Mob.’’ Rose restored the roster to most of its regular roles, or at least as regular as it could be with C.J. Watsonsuddenly out, along with the still-missing concept known as Richard Hamilton.
Taj Gibson had six points and six rebounds, while James scored seven in the first half and John Lucas III had 10 in the second.
The Bulls let the Hawks climb with five points in the fourth quarter, but Rose returned to the floor and righted things the way we expect. Lucas and Deng hit the big shots, and the Hawks were done.
Rose finished with 23 points to lead the team, like old times. He added six assists and five rebounds, playing 34 minutes, a good bit of exercise given the situation and a good result given that last disaster against the Nets.
As long as Rose is upright Tuesday.