DeMar DeRozan wasn’t having his best game.
The Chicago Bulls star entered the fourth quarter of Friday’s road matchup against the Pacers with 15 points on an atypical 4-for-15 shooting line. He added 10 more in the first 11:50 of that final frame, but it was on 3-for-8 shooting, and the Bulls trailed 106-105 with precious few seconds remaining.
But, as he has so often done this season, DeRozan saved his best for last, draining a one-legged 3-pointer at the buzzer to sink Indiana – and move the Bulls’ current season-high win streak to six:
“By the time I looked up, I didn’t realize the clock was so low,” DeRozan said of the shot. “I had to get it off."
Get it off he did, over the outstretched arm of Torrey Craig. And it dropped.
“As soon as it left my hand, it felt good,” he added.
Acting head coach Chris Fleming said postgame he was a split-second away from whistling for a timeout after the Bulls’ defensive stop that preceded the DeRozan make, but in a flow-of-the-game decision decided to let it ride.
“He (DeRozan) side-stepped and it’s, ‘Here it goes,’” Fleming said. “And obviously he made an unbelievable shot.”
A shot that Zach LaVine cleverly termed the “New Year’s Heave” on Twitter.
The make saved the Bulls from a rare fourth-quarter collapse. Despite trailing for most of the game, the Pacers leapt in front by six points with 2 minutes, 17 seconds remaining – largely on the back of backbreaking offensive rebounds, second-chance points and Bulls turnovers.
But all of that is secondary due to DeRozan’s heroics. He scored 28 points for the game, and 13 in the fourth quarter, shooting 11-for-12 from the free-throw line despite an off night from the field. He leads the NBA in total fourth-quarter points (232) and fourth-quarter points per game (8) on 53.2 percent shooting.
The Bulls move to 23-10 with the win, and sit first place in the Eastern Conference by way of a tiebreaker over the Brooklyn Nets.