In a troubling new trend, the Chicago Bulls (6-7) dropped another close game in the late stages, dropping a 115-111 contest to the New Orleans Pelicans. It is their fifth game with a final margin of five or fewer points this season.
They have lost all five of those contests after going 13-9 in such games and 18-12 in two-score games all last season.
This one is going to sting a little more than the others for Bulls star DeMar DeRozan.
Despite a fourth-quarter onslaught from Brandon Ingram, the Bulls cut an 11-point second-half deficit down to just three with under 20 seconds remaining in the game. But, as Goran Dragic attempted to inbound the ball for a potentially game-tying play, it harmlessly deflected off of DeRozan’s foot and out of bounds sealing the Bulls’ fate.
DeRozan Won’t Let Go
“It just went off my leg first,” a solemn DeRozan said while sitting in front of his locker after the hard-fought loss. “That was on me. I take that, it wasn’t nobody else fault. That was on me. I tricked it off.”
The Bulls tried to play the foul game to extend the tilt but to no avail.
For DeRozan, it was the second tough play to close out the game after his drive on the previous possession was met with a lot of contact but no whistle.
“I thought I did [get fouled]. Did it look like it? I mean, I thought I did but it is what it is…I mean it sucks. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating as hell. Just not giving ourselves an opportunity to see what could have happened.”
DeRozan was quick to once again direct blame inward saying that it was just a couple of “mental mistakes” on his part that deprived the Bulls of that opportunity,
“This one is going to eat away at me, for sure,” he said.
Different For DeRozan
It was an uncharacteristic sequence of events from a player who has built quite the reputation as a fourth-quarter maven. He finished last season tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo for second with 8.4 fourth-quarter points per game – behind only Kyrie Irving who averaged 9.2 points.
Irving, however, appeared in just 26 games.
DeRozan was a horse for the Bulls last season finishing second on the team in appearances behind only then-rookie Ayo Dosunmu.
This year, DeRozan is in a three-way tie ranking in the mid-30s with 5.3 fourth-quarter points. He has also gone from third in clutch scoring last season with 4.1 points per instance to ranking in the high-20s with 3.3 points this year.
“It sucks to lose,” DeRozan said via The Athletic. “But sometimes you need this to really be even more motivated and understand how to close out games.”
Donovan Backs DeRozan
DeRozan was rather tame when describing his feelings toward the no-call late in the game. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was respectful in his reaction to how DeRozan is officiated. But he was also more direct in his statement.
“There are fouls that need to be called that are not being called,” said Donovan, per Cody Westerlund of 670 The Score. “And sometimes those guys that score – that are high-foul guys – a lot of times those calls are not made.”
Donovan went on to say that he understands DeRozan will not get every call.
He also said that players that normally score a lot of their points at the free-throw line should generally be getting there even more.
It is an interesting position in light of the NBA’s recent tweaks to the shooting foul rules.