Billy Donovan has been brilliant, for the most part, in helping all of the new faces adjust and buy into his system. Monday night, the Bulls defeated the Toronto Raptors on the road in what became a very close game in the final minutes.
One particular player had a little more riding on this one, and he made it known that this was a big game.
DeMar DeRozan began his career in Toronto and credits them for helping shape him as a professional, but since leaving the Raptors a few years back, he has continued to play well every time he comes back — this night included.
Chicago Bulls wing DeMar DeRozan put on a show in the fourth quarter and continues to prove the doubters wrong.
At one point, the Bulls were up by 20 points in the third quarter. Toronto made their run and, with just four minutes or so remaining, had cut it to four. The lead went from 4-to-6 points for a large part of that last four minutes, but all the while DeRozan was having the best quarter of his young season and refused to let this undefeated start come to an end.
Within that last few minutes, DeRozan hit back-to-back jumpers. One saw him step back near the top of the key and knock it down with a defender in his face. The next was even more cold-blooded, as DeRozan stepped back and faded away on the baseline — swish.
DeRozan’s running mate, Zach LaVine, stepped right into a triple to keep the lead. But then, DeRozan went at it again, turning around and hitting another nasty fadeaway with just a minute and a half to go.
All in all, DeRozan scored 11 points in that fourth quarter and ended with 26 for the game. The Bulls also got 22 from LaVine, and the two of them continue to be a major problem for opposing teams, especially down the stretch.
The Bulls have two closers who thrive in crunch time. That, first and foremost, is obvious. What’s even more impressive is that they’re doing it with so much fluidity that you would think they’ve been playing together for years.
Prior to the season, many outlets and analysts questioned the Bulls’ pursuit of DeRozan, stating that he wasn’t a fit and that this team would never be able to defend. Both of those takes, to this point, have been proven to be dead wrong.
The Bulls are the league’s fourth-best defensive team, allowing just over 97 points per game. DeRozan and LaVine have combined to average 48.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 9.3 assists as a duo.
It’s only four games into the season, but these two have stayed on their mission to simply win basketball games and play tough defense, despite what was said about them leading up to the 2021-2022 campaign.
Next up, the Bulls get a stretch of playoff teams from last year. It gets tougher, but this will be good for them. It all begins Thursday night at home against Derrick Rose and the New York Knicks.