CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose feels it when he eats and drinks, and showers are painful, too. If the All-Star point guard were looking for something to make him feel better, this sure didn't hurt.
"There's no excuses," Rose said. "When I stepped out there, they weren't going to say that they were going to take it easy on us because I'm sick. They're a good team."
So are the Bulls, who won for the ninth time in 11 games even though Howard scored a season-high 40 points. They took the lead with a big third quarter and then held off a late push by Orlando.
The Magic cut it to 93-90 after Howard scored, stole a pass and fed Gilbert Arenas for a layup. Deng then scored down low with 1:22 left, and Rose hit four free throws the rest of the way, sealing the win.
Deng had 14 in the third as the Bulls doubled up the Magic 34-17, turning a five-point halftime deficit into an 80-68 lead.
Carlos Boozer added 16 points and 16 rebounds, helping Chicago avenge an earlier blowout at home by Orlando.
It was a rough night for the Magic even though Howard was at his best.
He was five shy of his career scoring high while pulling down 15 rebounds, but Orlando simply came up short against the Central Division leaders. It hit just 5 of 21 3-pointers with the Bulls fixated on defending the perimeter, even if that meant letting Howard go wild, and got outrebounded 54-40.
"At the end of the day, the 3 is more dangerous than the 2," Boozer said. "You don't want to give anybody 40 points. ... But I was proud of us for running them off the 3-point line. We took away their 3-point shot and rebounded the ball very well. It worked tonight."
It didn't help the Magic that they played most of the game without point guard Jameer Nelson, who lasted just eight minutes and sat out the final three quarters because of soreness in his right knee. He's not sure what caused the problem or if he'll play Sunday against Cleveland.
"I hope I can play Sunday," Nelson said.
Howard had some fun at his point guard's expense, calling him Jameer Cutler after the game. He wasn't so amused by the effort on defense, particularly when the Bulls hit 13 of 21 shots in the third.
"Whether Jameer was in or not, our defense was terrible tonight," Howard said.
As for Rose, the Bulls' first All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1998?
"He let the game come to him," Arenas said.
Rose was off target, hitting just 6 of 21 shots. Even so, he finished with 12 assists as the Bulls beat the Magic for just the seventh time in 20 games.
"It's amazing, the way he plays," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And he plays so hard. He's taking hits all the time, but the thing I respect about him is he always gets up."
This, however, is different.
"Usually, when you have an injury you put some ice on it or some Tiger Balm on it and it'll loosen up or get better," Rose said. "You can't do anything about that; you just have to wait."
Even with their star ailing, the Bulls got some measure of revenge for what Orlando did to them the last time they visited the United Center. It wasn't quite as lopsided as that 107-78 pounding in December, Chicago's worst loss this season, but it felt good, anyway.
"They beat us up pretty good last time," said Deng, who scored two points and took two shots in the first half before a third-quarter surge. "The Bostons, Orlandos, Miamis -- when we go out and beat those teams, we send a message that we've got a good team."
Orlando's Stan Van Gundy likes what he's seeing from the Bulls in their first year under Thibodeau. "I think that there's a handful of guys -- probably three or four -- that at the halfway point would have to be considered Coach of the Year," Van Gundy said. "And he'd have to be right up there with anybody." ... Saturday's game against Indiana will be the 12th in 21 days for the Bulls.
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