DeMar DeRozan Makes NBA History as His 4th-Quarter Mastery Continues to Pace the Chicago Bulls’ Resurgence

DeMar DeRozan kept the receipts. One group of executives and scouts tabbed the signing of DeRozan by the Chicago Bulls as the worst move of the offseason. Now that DeRozan has gone DeDouble on game-winning 3-pointers to close out 2021 and open 2022, he’s enjoying a hearty last laugh. It’s the first time in the previous 25 seasons a player has hit buzzer-beaters to win consecutive games.

DeRozan turned back the clock this season, scoring more than he has in five years while pacing the retooled Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference. On New Year’s Day, his game-winner at Washington secured Chicago’s seventh straight win. At 24–10, the Bulls moved a game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets in the East. How did the experts get it so wrong?

DeMar DeRozan signed a 3-year, $82 million contract in August 2021

The Chicago Bulls made major moves last summer. They acquired Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade from the New Orleans Pelicans, grabbed former Lakers fan favorite Alex Caruso, and made a sign-and-trade arrangement with the San Antonio Spurs to get DeMar DeRozan.

The first move made sense. Ball’s improvement over his time in New Orleans made him one of the top point guards on the market last summer.

Caruso was a value addition that the Lakers deemed unaffordable after trading for Russell Westbrook. The Bald Mamba started and came off the bench for the Bulls before a sprained foot sidelined him on Dec. 20.

Then there’s DeRozan.

He turned 32 three days before the sign-and-trade became official. He’s an anachronism in the modern NBA, a mid-range scorer who seldom takes 3-pointers and doesn’t make many when he does.

But he’s proven shockingly productive in the first half of the season. Buckets are buckets. And DeRozan’s been getting them by the bushel.

DeRozan goes hero mode on consecutive days

On New Year’s Eve, DeMar DeRozan lifted the Chicago Bulls to a road win over the Indiana Pacers when he canned a one-footed 3-pointer at the buzzer. It was the only 3 he made in the game after not attempting a deep ball two nights earlier in a win over the Atlanta Hawks.

DeRozan doubled down on the last-second winning thing at Washington on New Year’s Day. He drilled his lone 3-point attempt of the game as time expired to lift Chicago to a one-point victory over the Wizards.

Chicago got DeRozan back from health and safety protocols on Dec. 19. The Bulls are 7–0 since his return. Coincidence? Not likely. He’s averaged 28.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.4 rebounds in 35.2 minutes per game since his return, including 5-of-7 shooting from deep in that span. Two of those have been buzzer-beaters.

According to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, DeRozan isn’t sure what’s going on. After the win at Washington, he said:

“I don’t know if I’m dreaming or if it’s real right now.”

DeMar DeRozan

That seems a fair question. DeRozan tripled his previous career total of one such shot with two buzzer-beating winners in two days.

His first came with the Toronto Raptors in January 2013. According to NBA.com/Stats, DeRozan is the first player to hit buzzer-beaters for wins in consecutive games since play-by-play tracking began in 1997.

It’s an unlikely renaissance for DeMar DeRozan

Buzzer-beating game-winners are becoming a nightly occurrence for Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan.
Buzzer-beating game-winners are becoming a nightly occurrence for Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan. | G Fiume/Getty Images

At 26.8 points per game, DeMar DeRozan is scoring more than in five seasons. He scored 27.3 points a night in 2016–17 for the Raptors while earning his second All-Star berth. DeRozan is shooting 51.0% from 2-point range, down from 51.5% last season.

But when the game is on the line, DeRozan keeps coming up huge for the Chicago Bulls. It’s a long way from an ESPN survey of executives and scouts that declared his signing was the worst single move of the offseason.

This season, DeRozan is the top fourth-quarter scorer in the NBA, with 241 points in 30 games. He’s shooting 53.1% overall in the fourth and is 7-of-13 from long range.

No one’s been better this season when the game is on the line. In clutch situations, defined as the last five minutes of the game when the score is within five points, DeRozan is shooting 55.6% and has made both of his 3s. One came against the Pacers, the other against the Wizards. With 67 points in the clutch, DeRozan trails only Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, who has 96.

He has some help in those late-game situations. Chicago’s Zach LaVine has 59 clutch-time points on 50.0% shooting. Multiple weapons in money-time spells double-trouble for Bulls’ opponents. Chicago is 11–6 in games that have come down to crunch time, the sixth-best percentage in the NBA. With their loss, Washington fell to 14–3 but still leads the NBA.

The Bulls will likely get multiple All-Star bids from their perch atop the Eastern Conference. LaVine made the team last season and should repeat. But for the first time since 2018, his final season in Toronto, DeMar DeRozan should be headed to Cleveland on Feb. 20, as well. Not bad for a guy who tied with the New Orleans Pelicans’ disastrous offseason as the worst of the summer of 2021.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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