There was never a doubt about his ability. DeMar DeRozan is proven at this level. A four-time All-Star, he is also a two-time All-NBA honoree. DeRozan has scored 20.1 points or more in every season since 2013-14 and dropped as many as 27.3 per game in 2016-17. His departure from Raptors in 2018 wasn't about proficiency.
DeRozan is nothing close to his idol, Kobe Bryant, though. The late lethal superstar led the NBA in scoring in two different seasons. He also dropped as many as 35.4 points per game in 2005-06 and averaged 25.0 points for his career overall. But DeRozan’s game is still somewhat similar to Bryant’s according to the stats on www.gamblingmentor.org.
Bryant did most of his work from mid-range; close to 57% of his shots came from between three feet out and just inside the 3-point line. DeRozan’s shot selection is similar, as close to 69% of his attempts are from the same distance.
Ahead of the Bulls' trip to Toronto, all the talk was about DeRozan who played the first nine seasons of his NBA career there before getting traded to the San Antonio Spurs in 2018. He joined Chicago this past off-season.
The 32-year-old had faced his former team six times since then. In those contests, he averaged a pretty dominant 21.5 points on 53.8 per cent shooting with 8.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game. On top of that, he came off back-to-back 20-point performances. But there was something extra about this return.
Chicago has enjoyed a flying start, unbeaten in three and chasing a fourth on the spin for the first time in 25 years. On the other hand, the Raptors were in dire need of some magic to win for the first time at home this season. DeRozan was not in for any of that.
He finished with a game-high 26 points to keep the Bulls (4-0) - the only undefeated team in the Eastern Conference. The 32-year-old also hit three clutch field goals and drained two foul shots in the final five minutes of play to give his side a 111-108 victory before a sellout crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
DeRozan would then downplay his heroics. He said he was "just trying to do my job, especially with my experience, understanding those moments". He added "I understand what needs to be done. You know we got kind of stagnant and couldn't score. Those guys went on a run. It's always my job, especially late in games, to close out games, understanding what needs to be done and to getting to my spots and try to make big shots."
The American sure did his job and did it very well. In control through the first three quarters, the Bulls saw their opponents stage a late comeback to draw within two points with just under five minutes left. However, DeRozan took it upon himself to turn the tables once more, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter to ensure the narrow win.
After DeRozan pushed the Bulls to a 108-102 lead with just over a minute remaining, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet hit an inside shot to pull Toronto to within four. The Raptors had the ball back with 40 seconds remaining, but VanVleet's pass was picked off by Chicago guard Alex Caruso.
A Bulls' miscue on an inbounds pass led to an easy layup for Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes and a two-point deficit with 14 seconds left. But Chicago hung on with a late free throw from Nikola Vucevic and a game-ending three-point miss from VanVleet.
"DeMar obviously did a great job of closing the game out," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "He bailed them out because I thought we turned the water off on the other guys," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said real money casino america, referring to the hot start from Bulls guard Lonzo Ball, who drilled five three-pointers for his 15 points.