Bulls star DeMar DeRozan makes Knicks guard Quentin Grimes latest knockout victim

The “jittery feet” were the giveaway, and DeRozan knew he would have an opportunity to take Grimes where he wanted and win the game Friday. He explained how his love for boxing makes his late-game heroics on the court possible.

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DeMar DeRozan

NEW YORK — In Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan’s mind, it was just another sparring session with Team Mayweather.

Another hot Las Vegas afternoon in the boxing ring, anticipating the opponent’s slightest tell.

Unfortunately for Knicks guard Quentin Grimes, it was his feet.

‘‘They were jittery,’’ DeRozan said.

And with 0.4 seconds left on the clock in the Bulls’ 118-117 victory Friday, jittery feet quickly turned into a knockout.

It was DeRozan’s latest last-second game-winner with the Bulls — and maybe the most important. It not only extended the Bulls’ winning streak to three games, but it also showed they might not be in the disarray they appeared to be in at the start of the road trip.

That’s what DeRozan does: He calms chaos.

Last Sunday, the Bulls were getting embarrassed by the undermanned Timberwolves and turning on each other in the locker room at halftime. By late Friday, they were all smiles and laughs, thanks to DeRozan’s latest heroics.

With the Bulls trailing by one with six seconds left, DeRozan took the inbounds pass and waited to see what teammate Zach LaVine was going to do with his pick. If he slipped the screen, DeRozan would find him going to the hoop. If the Knicks double-teamed DeRozan, LaVine would get a long jumper. And if the Knicks’ defenders switched?

Anyone who knows DeRozan knows the high regard in which he holds boxing. He has made it a part of his offseason training program, working with Floyd Mayweather and his camp.

He also has incorporated his boxing skills into basketball. Grimes found that out.

‘‘It’s a feel,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘It’s about your initial reaction to whatever you do, what they did earlier [in the game]. If a player is jittery, if their feet are moving in a way where you can see they’re anticipating something, you kind of read it like that. It’s like a boxer that fakes at you just to set up a jab to the stomach. That’s how I look at it and see things when I’m in those isolation moments.’’

So what exactly did Grimes do?

‘‘His feet, they were jittery,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘I knew he wasn’t going to block my shot, so I wasn’t going to pump-fake because of his feet. Just get to my spot. Wasn’t going to fade, either. If he tried to contest me close, I knew there would be contact.’’

Grimes did, and there was. But DeRozan’s missed free throw was moot. The damage had been done.

‘‘I think in those moments things kind of calm for him, and he slows his mind, thinks about what’s going to happen,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of DeRozan’s late-game ability. ‘‘As things are unfolding, they happen to slow for him. He doesn’t get caught up in a lot of the craziness — clock, time. He knows, ‘OK, I’ve done this hundreds and thousands of times in my career.’ Not so much making it, but working on those shots where he gets himself to a quiet place and knows what he’s got to do.’’

That’s why DeRozan was tied for ninth in the NBA in clutch-shot moments last season and led the league in points in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan has fallen to fifth in fourth-quarter scoring this season, but that doesn’t mean his teammates don’t know who should have the ball with the game on the line.

‘‘We’ve seen him do that all the time, throughout his whole career,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘You get out of his way and let him do what he does. I was excited to help us get close and then put the ball in his hands. We’ve seen it before.’’

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