DeRozan's sense of calm helps Bulls hold off Knicks
The Bulls played close to a perfect first quarter Thursday at Madison Square Garden, building a 17-point lead, which grew to 21 points late in the first half.
Of course, New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was having none of that. They came storming back and took a lead with just over three minutes remaining.
That's when the work in the summer began paying off for the Bulls. There was the Bulls' acquisition of veteran DeMar DeRozan, as well as his tireless efforts to become a reliable late-game scorer. DeRozan scored 18 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and the Bulls pulled out a 119-115 victory.
DeRozan, a native of Compton, California, gave a detailed description of the process that led to this performance.
"It's just repetition, over and over, countless days, night, attention to detail to how defenders guard you," he said. "Whether it's small, strong, long players, tall players. I always put a lot of that into consideration when I'm getting to a spot or when I'm getting to a move.
"It's nothing but a feel for me. I try to master that every time I'm in the offseason and understanding my angles, getting shots off, off the dribble, going right, going left, counters, fadeaways, post-ups. It took years. None of that happened overnight."
Of course, there are no overnight sensations when it comes to being successful in New York City. The Bulls beat the Knicks for the second time in 12 days.
"I'm a basketball fanatic," DeRozan said. "It just becomes second nature when I'm out there."
With the score tied and about a minute left, the Knicks brought it down with a chance to take the lead. But as he so often does, Alex Caruso came up with a big defensive play, stealing the ball from Julius Randle, setting up Zach LaVine for 2 go-ahead free throws.
After Derrick Rose missed a 3, DeRozan drove into the lane and hit a bank shot to put the Bulls up by 4 with 20.1 seconds left.
Lonzo Ball, who went 2-for-10 from 3-point land, smothered a 3-point attempt by New York's Immanuel Quickly, causing him to shoot an airball. DeRozan got the rebound, was fouled and sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
LaVine and center Nikola Vucevic each finished with 27 points. Caruso produced 6 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. He spent time in the fourth quarter trying to guard the 6-10 Randle, who had 30 points and 12 rebounds.
LaVine got over his recent illness, took the brace of his injured left thumb and gave thanks for the veteran help from DeRozan.
"It helps the game tremendously," LaVine said. "Especially if we're frantic, he's been in these big-time games and situations, so I don't think a lot of things rattle him at all. That's where you just let him take over the game, calm it down, get to the free-throw line. I think it just gives the whole team like a deep breath, like 'We're OK.'"
Former Bulls forward Taj Gibson was ejected in the first quarter. He was livid after being called for illegal screen fouls on consecutive possessions.
Earlier in the day, Bulls coach Billy Donovan was named Eastern Conference coach of the month for November.
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