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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer played Monday against the Sacramento Kings after missing five games because of a sprained left ankle.He scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds in 26 minutes of the Bulls' 132-92 win. "If there aren't any problems before the game tonight, he'll go," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. "He was fine today." The Bulls finished play Monday still tied for the Eastern Conference lead with the Boston Celtics. Both teams are 50-19 as the Celtics beat the slumping Knicks in New York.
Forward Luol Deng, who did not practice on Sunday to rest a left thigh bruise, played as well. He had 17 points in 33 minutes. Taj Gibson, who was seen wearing a walking boot due to an injured right big toe, also played. Gibson scored two points off the bench.
Boozer, who suffered the injury March 9 after falling to the ground on a flagrant foul by the Charlotte Bobcats' Kwame Brown, returned to practice on Sunday.Boozer has missed 23 games because of injury this season. Thibodeau was excited to have him back. "It's great. We want to be at full strength. He adds a lot to our team," he said. "Offensively, low-post game, pick-and-roll game, catch-and-shoot, and defensively with the rebounding, it makes us stronger."
Derrick Rose was excused from practice for personal reasons but played Monday. Rose has said that he's feeling beat up, but Thibodeau is not concerned."Not at all. Because I don't think he's beat up," he said. "I watch him every day. I see how hard he practices. I see how he plays. And I think that's a big part of this league. I think if you're playing significant minutes and you're a primary scorer, and you play defense every night, but I've always seen how he's conditioned in the offseason, and he's prepared himself for this. So he just has to keep moving forward."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.