Behind DeMar DeRozan’s 50 points, Bulls have their moments in OT win
On a night in which the Bulls could’ve slipped to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, DeRozan and Co. picked up a huge comeback victory thanks to some clutch shots and some head-scratching mistakes by the Clippers.
The Bulls had their moments Thursday.
Then again, they’ve had moments for weeks, just not enough of them. That finally changed against the Clippers.
In one of the more head-scratching games of the season, the Bulls overcame an 11-point deficit with just under five minutes left to send the game to overtime, then prevailed 135-130 in OT.
“Heart, hard work, not giving up on nothing,’’ said forward DeMar DeRozan, who scored a season-high 50 points. “We needed a moment like that . . . all of us.
‘‘This is the best time of the year when everything matters. I just wanted to win this damn game badly, especially with how close things are in the East.
“I always tell these guys that as long as we got time on the clock, we’ve got a chance.’’
And, oh, those moments.
Forward Patrick Williams’ dunk with 7:36 left in regulation got the United Center fans to their feet and the Bulls to within five.
DeRozan did all he could to play hero, getting a left-handed hoop-and-foul with 2:55 left to pull his team to within four, then hitting a clutch midrange shot to cut the deficit to three just over a minute later.
He wasn’t done, either. He seldom is in the fourth.
Two more free throws with 1:05 left, and DeRozan pulled the Bulls to within three.
It was his 27th game of the season of at least 30 points; only Michael Jordan had more for the Bulls.
Even Zach LaVine got into the action with a put-back layup with 16.9 seconds left to make it a one-point deficit.
Paul George made two free throws with 11.8 seconds left, but the Bulls still had a chance. After a DeRozan slam, it was the free-throw game again; this time, Robert Covington made both.
Then craziness ensued.
With only seven seconds left and the Bulls looking for the game-tying inbounds play, Terance Mann was called for the rare away-from-the-ball foul, giving the Bulls a free throw and the ball.
DeRozan made the free throw, and then on the possession was fouled by George on a three-point attempt.
He made the first two and missed the third to send the game into overtime.
“It felt like a bomb went off in my head,’’ DeRozan said of the miss.
In overtime, the Bulls finally put the nail in the coffin, and the wealth was spread around.
Center Nikola Vucevic started the OT off with an inside basket, Williams had another dunk, then a huge three-pointer, and, of course, there was DeRozan, who had 10 points.
“That guy for us is special; he really is,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “The fact that mentally, DeMar can focus in and lock in on what he wants to get done . . . some of those guys are just wired in a way in which they have an unbelievable amount of focus and concentration.’’
With the victory, the Bulls (45-32) find themselves firmly in that No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference with only five games left.
“Those are the games we work for,’’ Williams said.
“The blowouts are cool, but the down-to-the-wire games are the ones that mean the most.’’