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Derrick Rose returns in Bulls’ win

Derrick Rose had 22 points eight assists Monday against New Jersey Nets. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Derrick Rose had 22 points and eight assists Monday against the New Jersey Nets. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 25, 2012 8:23AM

On a day when Derrick Rose returned to the court after admitting he won’t recover fully from his sprained left big toe this season, the Bulls learned their second-best player, Luol Deng, could be out for an extended period.

The extent of Deng’s wrist injury is something he and the team want to keep strictly confidential, at least for now.

Meanwhile on the court, little changed as the injury-depleted Bulls posted yet another routine victory. Deng’s loss is a huge one, and yet his absence went largely unnoticed as Rose, Rip Hamilton and Joakim Noah led the Bulls to a 110-95 victory Monday over the Nets at the United Center. It was their fourth consecutive win and ninth in 10 games.

Rose made his first appearance since posting a double-double against the Raptors on Jan. 14 and finished with 22 points and eight assists while wearing an insert to protect his toe.

“To miss as much time as [Rose] did and to come out and play like he did says a lot about him,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “His timing wasn’t there, but it will get up to speed quickly.”

Rose relishes playing against the league’s elite point guards, and ex-Illini star Deron Williams qualifies. The matchup between two players competing for a spot on the 2012 Olympic roster was mano a mano at times in the second half. Williams had 16 points and 10 assists.

When asked how the injury affects his game, Rose said, “I’d say being explosive, taking off, but it really didn’t bother me today.”

Hamilton did whatever was needed and had 22 points and 10 assists to help the Bulls dominate in virtually all phases.

The Bulls didn’t get a 20-point effort from a starting shooting guard last season. Hamilton has scored 20 or more in back-to-back games.

“With me, it’s not all about scoring,” Hamilton said. “There are so many great players on this team that my job is to make everybody’s job easier, whether it’s scoring or passing.”

Noah returned from a twisted ankle to turn in one of his best performances of the season.

He was a late scratch Saturday night after twisting his ankle in Cleveland the night before but had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double.

Carlos Boozer had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Ronnie Brewer, who started for Deng at small forward, had 11 points and five boards.

“I didn’t know that until he came to the team,” Rose said when asked if he knew Hamilton was such an accomplished passer. “He’s a better passer than I am.”

The Bulls have remained formidable despite a slew of injuries in part because of their willingness to make the extra pass. Their unselfishness was on display early while building a 16-point lead at the half. Brian Scalabrine and C.J. Watson set up Omer Asik for back-to-back buckets in the second quarter, for example. Hamilton set up Noah for consecutive bunnies as the Bulls extended their lead to 21 in the third quarter. In the fourth, it was Scalabrine setting up Watson for a three-pointer to beat the Nets’ zone and maintain a 20-point lead.

The Bulls had a season-high 33 assists.

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