DeMar DeRozan has been spectacular in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, and he closed 2021 in style with perhaps his best play yet: a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to stun the Indiana Pacers, 108-106. Thanks to DeRozan’s heroics, the Bulls extended their winning streak to six games and moved into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference at 23-10.
After a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Bulls trailed 104-98 with just over two minutes to play. At that point, it appeared they might be in line for their first loss since Dec. 11, but DeRozan had other ideas. The Bulls outscored the Pacers 10-2 from then on, and DeRozan either scored or assisted on their final seven points. There was an assist to Zach LaVine for a dunk, and then a baseline jumper to make it a one-point game. And, finally, the game-winner.
With just over 10 seconds left on the clock, the Bulls got a vital stop and DeRozan brought the ball up the floor. As he waited and waited to make his move, it seemed like the Bulls’ decision not to call a timeout and set up a play was going to be a mistake. Because of his delay, DeRozan didn’t have time to get off a regular shot, and had to hoist a runner off one leg from well behind the 3-point line. Somehow, it caught all net and the Bulls raced off the bench to mob their hero.
In truth, this wasn’t the best overall game for DeRozan. He finished with 28 points, but struggled to find his shot for most of the night, and went just 8-for-24 from the field — his third-worst single-game field goal percentage of the season. But he came up big when it mattered most, just as he has all season long for the Bulls.
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DeRozan leads the league averaging eight fourth-quarter points per game, which puts him ahead of superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Even more impressive is that in clutch time — the final five minutes of games that are within five points — DeRozan is shooting 54.8 percent from the field.
Overall, DeRozan is putting up 26.8 points, five rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, while shooting 49.7 percent. He’s fifth in the league in scoring, and this is the most points he’s averaged since 2017 when he was still with the Toronto Raptors. Any way you want to look at it, DeRozan has been playing at an All-NBA level for the Bulls, and has them looking like a real threat in the East.