“It won’t happen again,” DeRozan said via NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on April 5. “I guarantee you that.”
DeRozan finished the Bulls’ 105-92 loss to a shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks team with eight points on 3-for-12 shooting including going 0-for-1 from beyond the arc. He did add six assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
But he also committed three turnovers and got dinged for four personal fouls.
It’s the second-lowest-scoring outing of the season for the six-time All-Star and gave the rival Bucks homecourt advantage throughout the postseason. The Bulls meanwhile appear to be headed for a date with the Raptors in Toronto.
This is also just the fourth time DeRozan has scored below 10 points in a game this season after he never even scored below 15 points last season.
Milwaukee was playing without Giannis Antetkounmpo and lost Khris Middleton to knee soreness after just over eight minutes. But they still had Wesley Matthews who only stuffed the stat sheet with seven points to go with his eight rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal but mostly made life miserable for DeRozan.
History Repeating Itself for DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan may be right that such a performance won’t happen again this season – the Bulls would have to advance past the Play-In, winning two games for the right to face the Bucks for what would be the second year in a row in the postseason.
They met last year as the Bulls were snapping a five-year drought while the Bucks were defending their 2021 title.
The Bulls bowed out in five games in part because Matthews and crew clamped DeRozan.
DeRozan did make a similar vow after that Game 3 loss.
And DeRozan bounced back with a career-playoff performance but the outcome remained unchanged.
He has dealt with a leg injury that head coach Billy Donovan said he would have to manage the rest of the season so perhaps that played a part. But the numbers are not encouraging for DeRozan’s assertion or the Bulls’ outlook if they can win two games on the road where they are 17-23 this season.
But he came into the evening averaging 22.5 points on 49% shooting overall over the last six games. His hot streak from beyond the arc had come to an end with DeRozan going 2-for-13 from deep over the last five games now.
But he said he anticipates they will play at least some against the Detroit Pistons in the finale.
“It’s always a tricky thing because you want to find and keep a rhythm. With that, you don’t want to feel like you’re having too much rest and have rust, especially going into a one-game elimination,” DeRozan said, per Johnson. “I know for me, I never try to think past tomorrow. I take (Wednesday night), see how I feel (Thursday). Come Friday, see how I feel.
“But at some point, definitely going to use it as a rest day, whether I don’t play Dallas or whatever it may be. Something I’ll talk about with the coaching staff, But you want a rhythm, individually and team-wise.”
Locked into the 10-seed there is incentive for the Bulls to rest their players.
Bulls Could Hedge Their Bets
Chances are the Bulls are going to forfeit their first-round pick to the Orlando Magic to complete the trade for Vucevic. But they are just in the Play-In. If they don’t advance to the postseason, they can still wind up in the lottery with an ever-so-slim chance of holding onto a vital resource in what figures to be a critical offseason.
Of course, this is a front office that has resisted any semblance of conceding the season even as things were even more precarious than they are.