DeRozan, Bulls bounce back with win over Lakers
Check the video if you want, but there didn't appear to be any yawns coming from DeMar DeRozan, especially not in the fourth quarter.
After eight days off and two postponed games, the Bulls got a jolt of NBA reality with LeBron James bullying defenders, Carmelo Anthony swishing 3s and the fans on their feet at the United Center.
On Saturday, DeRozan said boredom was his only symptom during his time in health and safety protocols. Back on the court for the first time in two weeks, DeRozan scored 19 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls past the Los Angeles Lakers 115-110 on Sunday.
"I felt free as bird just getting out there, being with those guys," DeRozan said.
The Bulls trailed by 1 with just over a minute remaining when DeRozan tried to drive, but had his shot blocked by James. Alex Caruso got the rebound, kicked it out to Lonzo Ball for a missed 3. Another offensive board by Javonte Green gave DeRozan a second chance and this time he kept James away from the basket and drained a 20-foot jumper that turned out to be the game-winner.
"When the ball's in his hands, there's a calmness," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "There's just calmness to him. He doesn't get rattled. He's been in so many of these moments throughout his life, I think things slow down for him. I think he knows exactly what needs to be done and then he finds ways to stay totally locked in. it's really an incredible gift that he has and I'm sure it's something he's worked on."
DeRozan said as soon as he was cleared to return, he visited the Advocate Center at 1 a.m. to get some shots up.
"I try to clear my mind as best I can going into the fourth quarter, kind of erase everything that happened before and just completely lock in," he said. "Something I've been working on the last few years, focus on one thing and that's winning."
Russell Westbrook missed a shot in the post against Nikola Vucevic and another clutch offensive rebound, this time from Ball, set up DeRozan with 2 free throws that made it a 3-point lead with 15.6 seconds left. Anthony and Wayne Ellington missed 3s that could have tied the score and Ball sealed the win at the foul line.
Both teams were short-handed, but the Bulls had the challenge of playing their first game in nine days, along with several players coming back from time off in health and safety protocols. That meant using some players in shorter segments and substituting frequently.
All the Bulls starters played at least 34 minutes. Vucevic finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Ball had 19 points and Caruso 17 against their former team.
"I think (DeRozan) probably wanted to be out there a little bit more, but I think coming back from what he came off, just pretty amazing what he did," Donovan said. "Being out, missing games and having two days (to be in the gym), just his mental toughness and his heart, his competitive spirit, it's pretty amazing what he did."
James piled up 31 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists for the Lakers (16-15), who played without all-star forward and Chicago native Anthony Davis (left knee sprain).
The Bulls (18-10) got a nice boost of momentum early in fourth quarter when Coby White dribbled it up on a two-on-two break, eschewed the pass and instead rose up between James and Westbrook for a one-hand slam that fired up the crowd.
White, playing his first game in three weeks, finished with just 5 points, though.
The Lakers found an effective bench weapon in Anthony (21 points), who knocked down two straight 3-pointers, the second with 5:04 remaining, giving the Lakers a 102-99 edge. Thanks to Anthony, the Lakers held a 31-13 edge in bench points.
The Bulls recovered to take the lead on a Green follow with 2:48 left. From there, the lead changed hands four more times until DeRozan's free throws with 15.6 seconds left.
Forward Derrick Jones Jr. was a late add to the active roster, coming out of health and safety protocols. But he left the game with a left hamstring injury after playing five minutes. Donovan did not have an update on Jones' status after the game.
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