Desperate Bulls once again get bailed out by DeMar DeRozan’s heroics
After scoring 36 points, including 16 in the final quarter, DeRozan said he was willing to do whatever it took to end the five-game losing streak. He proved that, also clocking over 41 minutes to help the Bulls get back in the win column.
DeMar DeRozan asked the first question in the postgame news conference.
He earned that right.
“Anyone got a scoresheet?” the Bulls veteran yelled out as he sat down.
He examined it briefly and nodded, as the media questions started coming.
Yep, it was just as he thought. Desperate times led to desperate measures.
Thanks to DeRozan putting in over 41 minutes of work and scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth-quarter comeback, the Bulls ended an embarrassing five-game skid by beating the 18-win Pistons 114-108 on Wednesday.
“We needed it very bad,’’ DeRozan said. “[Wednesday] was definitely a desperate night for us to get a win. We were sluggish here and there, we all kind of got on each other in that third quarter to pick it up, and we did.”
Ah yes, those third-quarter huddles in timeouts. Some towel throwing, some yelling by the likes of Tristan Thompson and DeRozan, and all of it necessary.
“Things that I can’t repeat,” DeRozan replied, when asked what was said. “But it got everybody going where we needed to go.”
Because where they needed to go was the win column.
At 40-26, the Bulls are barely hanging onto the No. 4 seed with the streaking Celtics just a half-game behind them after winning a fourth consecutive game. And the Bulls are very aware that they still have one of the toughest schedules left in the Eastern Conference.
“I didn’t want to lose another game, I didn’t care who we were playing,” DeRozan said. “That was just my mentality. At this point of the season everything matters. Whether I play 48 [minutes], willing to play 48, because everything matters. There’s no time for rest.”
Not that the Pistons didn’t make it hard on the visiting team most of the night, especially after the Bulls came in and flexed early on the young up-and-comers. With 5:30 left in the first quarter, an Ayo Dosunmu layup put the Bulls up eight and it appeared to be another blowout in the making for the two division rivals.
As coach Billy Donovan pointed out before the game, however, this wasn’t the same Pistons team that the Bulls embarrassed 133-87 back in January.
That became evident.
By the end of the first quarter, the Pistons were up 26-25 as the Bulls’ defense started leaking. By the half, the Pistons’ lead was up to three.
Surely there would be some urgency in the locker room at halftime from the better team on paper. Nope. The Bulls were down seven going into the fourth quarter. Which means it was time to summon DeRozan. Like he has most of the season, the veteran delivered, and delivered big.
Death, taxes, DeRozan.
It didn’t hurt that the defense finally showed up, holding the Pistons to 17 points, and getting seven points off five turnovers.
“We’ve got to play like that from out of the gate,” DeRozan said. “We’ve shown spurts of doing it, but we’ve got to stop putting ourselves in a hole and working that much harder to get back in games, to win games.”
The Bulls also got 25 points from Zach LaVine and a surprising 21 points from Nikola Vucevic, who was a game-time decision with a strained right hamstring.
But DeRozan was once again the story.
“It’s impressive the way he’s able to take over in the fourth,” Vucevic said. “He just does it with so much poise, nothing is rushed. When you see it, his IQ in those moments, his skill set — it’s very hard to stop.”