Doug McDermott just needed a little love.
More importantly, the Bulls desperately needed a win.
Both got their wish on Friday.
Thanks to a career-high 30 points from McDermott, as well as Derrick Rose scoring 26 points, the Bulls ended a five-game losing streak, beating Toronto 116-106 at the United Center.
To call it a must-win was an understatement, considering the Bulls came into the evening losing 14 of their last 19 games and were barely clinging to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The players knew it, and more importantly coach Fred Hoiberg knew it.
That’s why the rookie coach had a few heart-to-hearts with several struggling players following the walk-through, but specifically McDermott. With good reason. The 11th overall pick from the 2014 draft had a miserable January, in which he was averaging just 6.2 points per game and shooting 38 percent from the field.
So Hoiberg pulled him aside for a quick 30-second chat, and playing Doug whisperer obviously worked for the second-year player.
“Yeah, I felt it was very needed,’’ McDermott said. “Obviously, coach showing he has confidence in you means a lot as a player, and that just shows what kind of coach he is.
“He can relate to me in some ways because similar games when he was in the league. We’ll have to check if he had a 30-point game, though. I don’t think he did. But he just gave me confidence coming into [Friday night], which was good.’’
That “good’’ really showed up in the third quarter, as the Bulls overcame what was at one point a 13-point first-half deficit, outscoring Toronto (35-18) 37-23 in those first 12 minutes of the second half. Rose was lethal, scoring 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, but McDermott’s 3-for-3 performance was also key.
Then in the fourth, McDermott scored 14 points, including a nasty baseline dunk, playing the entire final stanza.
“I thought Doug came out with an aggressive mindset,’’ Hoiberg said. “It just looked to me that he had lost a little confidence, and he’s such a good player, such a good shooter, I know his teammates trust him. I told him every time he shoots the ball I think it’s going in, and to go out there and play his game, play with confidence. You could just tell. His release was quick, he was hunting shots, great cuts, slashing to the basket. Just overall aggressiveness.’’
Hoiberg was asked if he could tell McDermott was down before the game with the Raptors and said, “I just told him how much I believed in him. He did a little bit of everything. He looked like Doug McDermott from his Creighton days.’’
And while McDermott and Rose carried the night, there was also a sneaky good performance from the seldom-used Cristiano Felicio, who gave Hoiberg 14-plus minutes, scoring eight points, as well as eight points from Bobby Portis.
All of it helped the Bulls continue their dominance over the Raptors, now beating them eight-straight times.
“Big Chris plays like that all the time in practice,’’ Taj Gibson said of the rookie bigs chipping in. “Him and Bobby, they’re scrappy. They go against me and Pau [Gasol] almost every day. They’re real physical, there’s some banging, they talk trash, we talk trash back.
“[Felicio is] still learning. He’s real aggressive, strong, he’s good.’’