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Derrick Rose returns to the lineup, starters finally healthy

BOSTON — The band never broke up. A few pieces were just missing for the Bulls.

But the team is hoping its game Friday against the Boston Celtics was just the first in a long reunion tour for a starting five that has been plagued by injuries all season.

Derrick Rose returned to action in the Bulls’ 109-102 victory, and it finally appeared the starting lineup they anticipated before the season — Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah — could string some games together.

Rose, who played only 10 minutes Tuesday in Denver because of tightness in his hamstring, scored 21 points in nearly 28 minutes against the Celtics. But Rose said knows he is healthy by how he played on defense.

‘‘I was able to move around defensively,’’ Rose said. ‘‘When you’re playing against all these guards — [the Nuggets’] Ty [Lawson], [the Celtics’ Rajon] Rondo — if you’re not healthy, it can be a long game. I didn’t want to hurt myself any more or make it even worse, so that’s one of the reasons I pulled myself out of the Denver game. But [today] I was able to play through it.’’

It was a refreshingly uneventful game injury-wise for Rose. The only twinge of concern came when he fell hard to the court with 5:30 left in the first quarter after being fouled by Rondo, but he got up immediately.

There’s still rust, but flashes of the old Rose did peek out. The Bulls trailed 60-54 at halftime, but Rose came out in the third quarter and scored 12 points in the first four minutes. The floater he has used so much in the past was working for him in the second half.

‘‘I looked at him the last two days, practicing and practicing hard,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘So he played better. That’s going to happen. That’s how he’s going to shake the rust off. So I just want him to keep building.’’

Rose is the Bulls’ most publicized and most talented player, but they also miss Noah’s energy when he’s out of the lineup. His return against the Celtics after sitting out against the Nuggets with an injury to his left knee wasn’t always pretty — he missed a number of easy shots, including a dunk — but he sank a key jumper with 24.4 seconds left. He was open because Rose was double-teamed.

Thibodeau said Noah, whose all-around game was on display with 15 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and six blocks, is difficult to measure statistically. His activity level is the best indicator of his health, and Noah was high-energy all day.

‘‘It’s been a grind, and I know that we have a ways to go,’’ Noah said. ‘‘But, like I said from the beginning of the year, I think the mentality is good on this team.’’

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen