Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan plays ‘King of the Fourth’ at the horn again
DeRozan became the first player in NBA history to hit game-winning shots at the buzzer on back-to-back nights, slaying the Pacers on Friday, then answering the call against the Wizards. His heroics leave the Bulls alone atop the Eastern Conference.
There isn’t much that leaves Zach LaVine searching for words.
But on Saturday, he was trying to best sum up what DeMar DeRozan accomplished on back-to-back nights.
“Dude is incredible,’’ LaVine said before starting to laugh.
“I can’t say much more than that. . . . I thank God that we have DeMar DeRozan on our team.’’
The Pacers and Wizards might have a different take, and it might not be suitable for children.
Thanks to a second buzzer-beater in as many nights by DeRozan, the Bulls have a seven-game winning streak and sit alone atop the Eastern Conference with a 24-10 record. As for DeRozan, he sits alone in fourth-quarter scoring around the league — and in cold-blooded heartbreak for the opposition.
“I see two guys on me, and I knew one would at least go for the pump fake,’’ DeRozan said of his latest heroics with 3.3 seconds left on the inbound. “After that, I just wanted to make sure I got my feet behind the line and give it the chance to go in.’’
The three-pointer delivered a 120-119 victory for the Bulls in a game they really had little business being in.
“Just hungry, hungry to win,’’ DeRozan said. “To be honest with you, just being in the locker room with guys and a coaching staff that make coming to work fun, it’s motivating and exciting just to go out there and play.
“Every time I get the opportunity to play with these guys, it’s a dream come true in a sense. Even though I’ve been in the league awhile, it’s that refreshed feeling that you have going out there to play basketball.’’
He’s looking more than refreshed. DeRozan is looking like a top-three MVP candidate.
In beating Indiana in similar fashion a night earlier, DeRozan became the first player in league history to win games at the buzzer on back-to-back nights, and the first to do it in back-to-back games since Larry Bird in 1985. Bird had a day off between games.
The kicker in this latest win was that the Bulls had some sleepwalking moments, as they did against Indiana.
Defensive breakdowns remained an issue with too much miscommunication against the pick-and-roll and too many lethargic sets in which the Bulls simply got caught watching the ball rather than their man as possessions ticked down.
The Wizards had 72 points in the paint compared to 30 by the Bulls.
Down 64-52 at the half, the Bulls’ resiliency was on display once again in the third quarter as the switch was flipped. And so was the scoreboard.
The defense was more focused, and Coby White again made an impact. The Bulls, led by White’s eight points and two assists, outscored the Wizards by 10 in the third.
That meant another nail-biter in the fourth, and more heroics from DeRozan, who has earned the nickname “King of the Fourth.’’
The Wizards (18-18) grabbed the momentum on Kyle Kuzma’s three-pointer with 3.3 seconds left, putting them up by two, but 3.3 seconds is an eternity for DeRozan.
He had enough time to check his feet, pump-fake and still get the bucket.
“We don’t let anything rattle us throughout the game, and we just keep going,’’ DeRozan said.
“I don’t know if I’m dreaming or if it’s real right now. [I’m] willing to step up whenever that moment is called for and be ready for it. That’s all I can do.’’