Derrick Rose tried to play it coy.
''I was just taking what they were giving me,'' Rose said after he blitzed the Milwaukee Bucks with an first-quarter barrage en route to 26 points and 13 assists in a 113-90 blowout Saturday before a sellout crowd at the Bradley Center dominated by Bulls fans.
But it looked like more than that -- more like payback against Bucks guard Brandon Jennings, who scored 16 points in the first quarter against Rose at the United Center last month, before Rose rallied the Bulls to a 107-100 victory.
''Derrick remembers things,'' said Bulls forward Kyle Korver. ''And the last time we played Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings really went at him in the first quarter. Derrick he looks for anything. I think he really wanted to attack.''
It was too obvious. Rose hit three three-pointers and scored 13 points in a 15-2 run that gave the Bulls a 15-4 lead with 7:15 left in the first quarter.
''That's what I live for,'' Rose said. ''That's the way Chicago players play -- aggressive. ''If anything, I love that. It makes me want to play harder.''
Rose elicited chants of ''M-V-P'' from the partisan Bulls crowd just 4:08 into the game, after hitting a pull-up three-pointer that gave the Bulls a 10-4 lead. He followed that with a drive through traffic and then hit another three-pointer to bring the crowd to its feet again, leading 15-4.
It wasn't as easy as it looked for Rose. He sat out most of the second quarter when his back tightened up and was worked on by assistant trainer Jeff Tanaka throughout much of the quarter. But Rose returned in the second half and while not appearing to be 100 percent, still turned it on to finish the blowout.
''My back tends to get tight a little bit, that's why my shots were kind of flat,'' Rose said. ''I know after a day off tomorrow, I'll get my back worked on and that should be out of the way quickly.''
The Bulls got a boost from the return of forward Deng, who had missed the previous seven games with a torn ligament in his left wrist. Deng scored 13 of his 21 points in the first half. and added nine rebounds in a typical 41-minute performance.
''He was great,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''I can't say enough about him. He got out there and did everything. It was very encouraging.''
Deng said afterwards that he feels great and his wrist feels great and everything is fine. ''If anything, I'll know tomorrow,'' he said.
Deng's return seem to inspire his teammates. But so did the pro-Bulls crowd that made it feel like a home game and wasn't unnoticed by the Bulls players.
''Our fan base is unbelievable,'' Rose said. ''I want to thank all of ten that came out and supported us. It means a lot, not only to me but our team and the organization.''
With Rose leading the way, the Bulls had four players in double figures by halftime and ended up with five. Korver added 18 points and hit 4-of-8 three-pointers. Joakim Noah scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a spirited performance. And C.J. Watson scored 13 points and hit 3-of-5 three-pointers off the bench.
''It was clear form the jump ball, they came ready to play,'' said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. ''That's a great team. Once they take control it's very difficult to get back into the game.''