(Reuters) - Chicago’s Derrick Rose showed he is back to full fitness by grabbing 32 points and nine assists to help the Bulls beat the New Orleans Hornets 99-95 on Tuesday.
Rose, who has missed 10 games this season with various injuries, scored six of the game’s final eight points as the Bulls finished on an 8-0 run to hold off a late charge by the visiting Hornets.
Chicago also welcomed Richard Hamilton back to the lineup and had their season-opening starting five on court for the first time since January 4.
“We have to knock some of the rust off,” said Rose, who had appeared closer to top form in his two games back from injury before Sunday’s All Star game.
Rose showed no signs of rust in his best performance in nearly a month, allowing Chicago (28-8) to tie idle Miami at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The win did not come easily, however, as New Orleans (8-26) erased a nine-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter and blitzed Chicago with a 13-0 run to grab a 95-91 lead with 1:25 to go before Rose took over.
The reigning league MVP cut the lead with two free throws, and later added a go-ahead jump shot with 19 seconds remaining before making another pair of free throws to cap the scoring.
Joakim Noah aided the home effort with 15 points, 16 rebounds and five assists.
“You have to find different ways to win,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters.
Chris Kaman recorded 17 points and 11 rebounds while Trevor Ariza added 16 points for the Hornets who are last in the Western Conference but are playing better as of late.
New Orleans are 4-3 over their last seven games following a horrendous start to the season.
Editing by Peter Rutherford