Derrick Rose came on strong after a slow start to finish with 34 points, and the Chicago Bulls ran away with their 12th win in 14 games, beating the struggling Atlanta Hawks 94-76 on Friday.
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The Bulls prevailed on a night when Carlos Boozer sat out with a sprained left ankle thanks to a strong third quarter. Leading the way was Rose with 18 points in the period as the Bulls outscored Atlanta 24-10 to turn a two-point halftime deficit into a 72-60 lead, and Chicago pulled within a half game of Eastern Conference leader Boston.
Luol Deng added 18 points even though he was questionable after bruising his left thigh when he took a knee from Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson on Wednesday. The Bulls won that game to clinch the Central division, but it was a costly victory.
Boozer limped off the court after an awkward landing on a late flagrant foul by Kwame Brown and remains day to day. Coach Tom Thibodeau started Kurt Thomas instead of Taj Gibson in his place and the veteran grabbed 13 rebounds in his first appearance since Feb. 23.
Joakim Noah had 11 rebounds and Chicago outrebounded the Hawks 50-28 while sending Atlanta to its fourth straight loss.
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 16 points. Josh Smith added 15 and Jamal Crawford scored 14 for Atlanta, which went cold in the third quarter and remained winless since beating Chicago at home last week.
Rose perked up in a big way, turning around what looked like another brutal performance against Atlanta. He hit just 2 of 11 shots in the first half after going 5 for 21 with just 12 points and six turnovers in the previous meeting.
But after Kirk Hinrich started the second half by stretching Atlanta’s lead to 52-48 with a jumper, Chicago’s All-Star point guard went to work in a big way as the Bulls reeled off 14 straight points.
Rose scored 12 during that stretch, starting it with a 3-pointer and ending it with a driving layup that made it 62-52.
The Hawks, meanwhile, missed seven straight shots and went seven minutes without scoring before Crawford hit a 3 with 4:41 remaining, but the Bulls remained in control the rest of the way.
NOTES: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen will be on hand as the Bulls celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first championship at halftime of Saturday’s game against Utah. Also attending will be John Paxson, Horace Grant, Stacey King, Craig Hodges, Will Perdue, Scott Williams, Cliff Levingston, Dennis Hopson and assistant coach Johnny Bach. Former Bulls broadcaster Jim Durham will emcee the ceremony. … Grant got a nice ovation when he was shown seated at courtside before the start of the second quarter. … The Hawks had won eight of nine against Chicago.