There were moments for the Bulls.
Then again, there have been moments for this team for weeks. Just too many nights where there wasn’t enough of them. Finally, that changed on Thursday.
In one of the more head-shaking games of the season for the Bulls – and this time not a head shake of disappointment – they not only overcame an 11-point deficit with just under five minutes left to send the game to overtime, but then beat the Clippers 135-130 in the extra stanza.
Of course the star of the game was DeMar DeRozan, with the veteran putting a season-high 50 up, as well as recording his 27th game of the season with 30-points or more. Only Michael Jordan had more in a season for the Bulls.
“Heart, hard work, not giving up on nothing,” DeRozan said of the win. “We needed a moment like that … all of us. This is the best time of the year when everything matters. I just wanted to win this damn game badly, especially with how close things are in the East.
“I always tell these guys that as long as we got time on the clock we’ve got a chance.”
And oh those moments that gave them that “chance.”
The Patrick Williams cram with 7:36 left in the game to get the United Center fans to their feet and the home team to within five points of Los Angeles.
DeRozan again doing all he could to play hero, getting the left-handed hoop-and-foul with 2:55 remaining to pull his team to within four, and then hitting a clutch mid-range to cut it to three just over a minute later.
The veteran wasn’t done, either. He seldom is in the fourth.
Two more free throws with 1:05 left, and DeRozan pulled the Bulls to within three. Even Zach LaVine got into the action, with a put-back layup with 16.9 seconds left to make it a one-point deficit.
Two Paul George free throws with 11.8 left gave the Bulls a chance, and after a DeRozan slam it was the free throw game again, this time as Robert Covington made both.
Then craziness ensued.
With just seven seconds left and the Bulls looking for the game-tying inbounds play, Terance Mann was called for the rare away-from-the-ball foul, giving the Bulls a free throw and the ball. DeRozan made the free throw, and then on the possession was fouled by George on a three-point attempt. He made the first two, missing the third, and sending the game into overtime.
“It felt like a bomb went off in my head,” DeRozan said of the miss.
It was in that overtime that the Bulls finally put the nail in the coffin, and the wealth was spread around a bit.
Nikola Vucevic started the extra stanza off with a basket inside, Williams had another dunk and then a huge three-pointer, and of course DeRozan, who had 10 in the OT.
“That guy for us is special. He really is,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The fact that mentally, DeMar can focus in and lock in on what he wants to get done … some of those guys are just wired in a way in which they have an unbelievable amount of focus and concentration.”
With the win the Bulls (45-32) now find themselves still holding firm on that No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference with just five games left.
“Those are the games we work for,” Williams said. “The blowouts are cool, but the down-to-the-wire games are the ones that mean the most.”