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Veteran DeMar DeRozan toeing the line and delivering for Bulls

There’s a reason the Bulls feel like they have a good chance to win every night they take the court, and having DeRozan as a closer is a big reason why. And as long as his toes cooperate, he’s money in crunch time.

“I always say I think he’s a better three-point shooter than people give him credit for, but oddly enough he’s always got his toes on the line,’’ Bulls acting head coach Chris Fleming said of DeMar DeRozen. “I’m always telling him that.’’
“I always say I think he’s a better three-point shooter than people give him credit for, but oddly enough he’s always got his toes on the line,’’ Bulls acting head coach Chris Fleming said of DeMar DeRozen. “I’m always telling him that.’’
Nick Wass/AP

Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan has toe issues.

More specifically, he has issues with making sure he knows where to put them.

DeRozan is drawn to the comforts of the mid-range zone, even when he wants to shoot from long distance. That leads to a lot of long two-pointers mistaken as three-pointers.

‘‘I always say I think he’s a better three-point shooter than people give him credit for, but, oddly enough, he’s always got his toes on the line,’’ Bulls acting head coach Chris Fleming said with a laugh. ‘‘I’m always telling him that.’’

DeRozan has gotten the message — at least in the Bulls’ last two games, in which he has continued living up to his ‘‘King of the Fourth’’ nickname.

On Friday in Indianapolis, DeRozan made a three-point runner off one leg at the horn to down the Pacers. Then his follow-up Saturday in Washington was even more bimpressive because his toes could have been an issue.

With 3.3 seconds left and the Bulls btrailing the Wizards by two, DeRozan took the time to check where his toes were and pump-faked to gather himself before making another winning three-pointer at the horn.

‘‘[With] three seconds left and two guys hanging on him, he had it in his mind to look down and see where his feet were to make that shot,’’ Fleming said. ‘‘Incredible shot.’’

After 34 games, it has been an incredible season for the 34-year-old DeRozan. He leads the Bulls in scoring at 26.8 points per game and tops them in player efficiency rating at 24.15.

And DeRozan has done his best work late, scoring a league-high 241 points in the fourth quarter on 53.1% shooting, including 7-for-13 from three-point range. Most of those long-range shots have been meaningful, too.

‘‘It’s an honor to be trusted in the fourth quarter,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘Whether things are going [good] or going bad, my teammates always lean on me to be that calm presence to kind of bring us home. I always bring that calm presence as much as I can in the fourth quarter, letting guys understand that as long as we’ve got time, we’ve got a chance.’’

Sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 24-10, the Bulls feel like they have more than a chance when they take the court. Guard Zach LaVine admitted that, for the first time in his career, he and his teammates think they’re going to win every night they step on the court.

For that, the Bulls can thank team chemistry, a roster full of players with chips on their shoulders and, most important, DeRozan.

‘‘The beauty of it is, he is who he is,’’ Fleming said of DeRozan’s presence in the locker room. ‘‘He comes every day. He’s got a routine and a way to treat people. I think some of it just starts there.

‘‘He’s come [to the Bulls] for the right reasons. He really wants to be part of a winner. He’s a winning player; he has been on good teams before. The way he goes about talking to his teammates and treating his teammates and treating and talking to his coaches, of all the other things you see on the basketball court and his ability to put that thing in the basket, I think it starts there with him.’’