DeRozan's calm, Bulls' fire fuel big comeback in Boston
Maybe it's a stretch to make this connection, but this fact was just sitting in Monday's game notes.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last NBA team to start 4-0 after finishing at least 10 games under .500 the previous season was the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, who won the championship behind a big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
The Bulls definitely have a dynamic duo in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, along with some candidates for a third standout. Seven games into the season, they're off to a very good start.
On Monday in Boston, the Bulls dominated the fourth quarter 39-11, rallied from a 19-point deficit and rolled past the Celtics 128-114 to improve to 6-1 on the season.
"That was the reason why I came," DeRozan said. "The conversation I had with the front office -- I felt it, I sensed it, I understood it and as a competitor, that's something I wanted to be part of. Understanding not everything's going to be perfect, but everybody wants to win."
DeRozan led the way with a season-high 37 points, hitting 15 of 20 shots from the field; while Zach LaVine added 26 points.
So far, DeRozan has given the Bulls exactly what they needed. Someone with a history of winning, who won't even flinch at the idea of trailing by 19 points at a loud TD Garden. Been there, done that.
"He's incredibly poised," coach Billy Donovan said. "He does not get out of sorts at all. I think he's great for our team, I think he's great for Zach. I could tell Zach was pressing a little bit, shots weren't falling. A couple times he was too aggressive.
"I think (it helps) having a guy like DeMar out there who just plays with a pace and a tempo and a poise that you never take him out of what he's doing."
The Bulls also got another big boost from the revamped second unit. Rookie Ayo Dosunmu scored a season-high 14 points and hit a go-ahead 3 to cap the comeback. Derrick Jones Jr. and backup center Tony Bradley also played valuable minutes and all three were on the floor during much of the turnaround.
The Bulls were down by 17 in the final minute of the third quarter, then went on a 16-1 run to get within 2. After an exchange of baskets, Dosunmu's 3-pointer put them ahead 106-105 with 6:53 remaining. The rookie from Illinois appreciated the moment while not getting overwhelmed by it.
"Growing up you watched Lakers-Celtics and Bulls-Celtics," he said. "So being here at TD Garden and just competing, it's fun. I was excited to be in that atmosphere because being a rookie, you see it on TV, but actually being there is cool."
At the start of the day's action, Boston was last in the NBA in points allowed at 118.3 per game. The Bulls have been pretty solid defensively and ranked fourth-best at 98.8 points allowed.
The Celtics definitely turned the game into their style during a high-scoring first half. The Bulls started out hot, hitting 7 of 9 attempts from 3-point land in the first quarter, but trailed 67-59 at half.
"I think we lost our way in a good portion of that game," Donovan said. "It was really our defense that was the problem. Then what happened was, we tried to correct our defense with our offense and then we just started getting into iso, holding the ball, there was very little movement, no one was in continuity."
While the Bulls were starting to roll late in the game, DeRozan hit a corner 3 that was wiped out by a replay review and ruled a shot-clock violation.
When play resumed, Alex Caruso made a steal and DeRozan knocked down the exact same shot in front of the Bulls' bench. There's a long way to go, but this team seems to have an impressive spirit and camaraderie.
"It's very gratifying to see that we keep the fight," DeRozan said. "We were down big on the road, a tough place to play in. We didn't get rattled, we buckled down."
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