Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan plays hero again, makes Knicks pay

Thanks to some poor New York free-throw shooting, the door was open for DeRozan to show off that cold-blooded clutch gene, and he delivered. His 22-footer with 0.1 left on the clock gave the Bulls a third straight win.

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DeMar DeRozan

NEW YORK — It was a simple play for DeMar DeRozan.

Zach LaVine was going to set the screen, and if Knicks second-year guard Quentin Grimes, 22, was going to switch to DeRozan, he was going to get schooled.

Grimes switched, and it was time to pay tuition.

Thanks to a cold-blooded 22-footer from DeRozan with 0.1 second left, the Bulls (14-18) took a big bite out of the Big Apple, beating the Knicks 118-117 as Christmas came early.

DeRozan wouldn’t have even had a chance to be in that position if New York had been better from the free-throw line. Grimes missed two free throws with 1:06 left, then Jalen Brunson missed both of his with 6.1 seconds left.

But DeRozan wasn’t complaining.

“I’m glad they missed,’’ DeRozan said, laughing. “The bad luck we’ve had this season, things not going our way, something went our way. And we capitalized on it, got it done.’’

DeRozan coming up clutch again was no surprise, especially considering how often he did it last season.

“Just be confident in the work and repetition you’ve put in,’’ he said of his game-winner. “It’s second nature. I don’t care how many shots I missed before.’’

Not a bad win for a team that was all but left for dead at the start of the road trip after losing to the Timberwolves in embarrassing fashion Sunday.

The Sun-Times reported on a halftime outburst during that game, which coach Billy Donovan confirmed.

Donovan wanted to see how his players would deal with each other in the aftermath, and he found out quickly with three straight hard-fought wins.

“It’s like adversity in anything where sometimes it can break you, and you can divide and fall apart, or it can band you together,’’ Donovan said. “I think those are choices you can make as individuals and as a team. Trying to hold each other to a higher standard, sometimes emotions can get out in the heat of the battle. But I do think there’s a care factor there.’’

If there was one concern out of the trip, however, it was Alex Caruso’s injury.

Caruso was involved in a nasty collision during the win against the Hawks on Wednesday and suffered a concussion and sprained his right shoulder.

The extent of the shoulder injury was the worry, especially because the medical staff has to wait until the concussion symptoms clear before it can really start testing the shoulder, Donovan said.

That waiting game undoubtedly will cost Caruso a few games.

Considering he will go into the holiday break leading the Bulls with a plus-63 and is by far their best wing defender, it will be a hard combo of skills to replace.

Green still ailing

Forward Javonte Green missed his seventh game with a sore right knee, and his time on the shelf might end up being longer than first expected.

Donovan said Green has been able to run, but he also has experienced some pain, forcing the medical staff to hold him back. So it’s a wait-and-see.

“We thought it was progressing well, but it’s gotten to a point where when he tries to run — he can run — he feels it, and he’s had some swelling in the knee,’’ Donovan said.

Green’s absence has hurt the depth off the bench, but the real gut punch was that it put the kibosh on the new-look starting unit, maybe permanently.

Green was moved into the starting lineup over Patrick Williams after an embarrassing loss in Phoenix, but it lasted only one game before his knee started acting up.

Donovan has given no indication that he’ll go back to it when Green returns.

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