The Eastern Conference surely hoped that the All-Star break would slow down the red-hot DeMar DeRozan, but unfortunately for the rest of playoff picture, Chicago’s MVP candidate remains as unstoppable as ever. DeRozan broke Wilt Chamberlain’s decades-old NBA record in the buildup to the All-Star break by becoming the first player in league history to score 35 points on 50 percent shooting or better in seven straight games. On Thursday, he made it eight.
DeRozan had just 34 points on 14-of-20 shooting as the Bulls entered what could have been their final possession against the Atlanta Hawks down 109-108. DeRozan needed a bucket to extend the streak and earn the Bulls a victory. He did both and got himself a free throw in the process.
It was hardly the first game-winning shot DeRozan has made this season. He’s been so dominant late in games that at one point, he even hit winners on back-to-back nights. DeRozan is shooting roughly 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc in fourth quarters this season. He trailed only Joel Embiid in clutch scoring entering Thursday.
But more importantly, that clutch performance earned the Bulls yet another win. That was Chicago’s sixth in a row, launching them back into the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference despite serious injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Zach LaVine missed time earlier in the season and projected starting power forward Patrick Williams has scarcely played.
None of that has mattered. The Bulls have been the Eastern Conference’s best team thanks in large part to DeRozan’s masterpiece of an offensive season. So long as the Bulls can keep the game close for 43 minutes, DeRozan has proven capable of winning it for them in the last five. Once his teammates return and he has a healthy roster, he’ll make them one of the hardest outs in the playoff field when the postseason finally arrives.
Courtesy: CBS Sports