DeMar DeRozan is a person of his phrase. He proved that to Chicago Bulls followers Wednesday night time, devouring the Milwaukee Bucks protection within the second half to cement a 114-110 win that evened the first-round playoff collection at a sport apiece.
The Bulls star didn’t disguise his frustration after Sport 1, promising he wouldn’t repeat his 6-of-25 capturing efficiency. DeRozan spent Tuesday night time on the Fiserv Discussion board court docket, placing up pictures to regain the rhythm missing within the opening loss.
In his trademark model, DeRozan delivered when it mattered. He went 6-for-9 within the third quarter to carry off a livid Bucks comeback, weaving and sidestepping by means of the midrange to match blows with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And after the Bucks carved the result in three factors with 56.4 seconds to play, DeRozan was there to counter — charging the rim to attain the clinching basket with 18.2 seconds left.
DeRozan completed with 41 factors, his highest-scoring playoff efficiency to hitch a listing of profession highs recorded in his thirteenth NBA season. He led the Bulls to their first win of the season over the Bucks and their first win in opposition to Antetokounmpo since 2017.
“I by no means let a miss deter me from taking my subsequent soar shot or being aggressive,” DeRozan mentioned.
DeRozan wasn’t the one participant with guarantees to maintain. The Bulls offense underperformed at each place in Sport 1. However Sport 2 captured all the pieces the Bulls promised they could possibly be from the beginning of the season.
Their large three of DeRozan, Nikola Vučević (24) and Zach LaVine (20) mixed for 85 factors. Vučević knocked down 4 3-pointers — together with a clutch shot with 2:30 remaining, punching the air in a uncommon celebration. Alex Caruso whipped the ball exactly across the court docket, ending with a playoff-best 10 assists earlier than drawing a cost on Antetokounmpo to shut the sport.
After taking solely three pictures in Sport 1, Patrick Williams vowed to ratchet up his aggression within the second playoff sport of his younger profession. He caught to that purpose in Sport 2, scoring 10 factors on 5-for-9 capturing whereas recording 9 rebounds, a steal and a block on Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo completed one help wanting a triple-double with 33 factors, 18 rebounds and 9 assists, and Brook Lopez added 25 factors for the Bucks.
The Bulls led by 18 factors within the third quarter, however the Bucks surged to chop the deficit to 3 at a number of factors of the second half. Coach Billy Donovan credited his group for bending however not breaking in opposition to the reigning champions.
“They’ve to know that mentality,” Donovan mentioned. “It’s important to take care of the truth that there’s going to be swings, and the communication was nice.
“After they reduce it down to 6, within the huddle they have been saying: ‘Hey, we’re going to make a run. Now it’s time for us to reply. We’ve obtained to reply proper now.’ And we did. That’s what you’ve obtained to have the ability to do.”
The Bulls protection, in the meantime, continued to excel after holding the Bucks beneath 100 factors in Sport 1.
The Bucks turned the ball over on their first three performs, and the Bulls pounced on every mistake, leaping out to a 9-0 lead earlier than the Bucks have been pressured to take a timeout. It was a satisfying function reversal for the Bulls, who dug themselves into an equivalent gap within the opening minutes of Sport 1.
The early lead mirrored an enchancment from Sport 1, by which the Bulls transformed solely 5 transition factors regardless of forcing 21 turnovers.
“It’s fairly apparent — you don’t have an opportunity in opposition to these guys in case you don’t play protection,” Caruso mentioned.
The Bulls led by 14 at halftime, a margin that would have been even wider if Lopez and Wesley Matthews hadn’t mixed for six 3-pointers within the first half.
The Bucks have been short-handed within the loss after shedding two key gamers to harm in the course of the sport.
Bobby Portis took an elbow to the face from Tristan Thompson within the first quarter, dripping blood from beneath his proper eye earlier than being sidelined for the remainder of the sport with an abrasion that impaired his imaginative and prescient. The harm lessened the dimensions benefit the Bucks sometimes maintain over the Bulls, limiting them to Antetokounmpo and Lopez within the paint.
Khris Middleton (18 factors) — whose scorching third-quarter capturing helped deliver the Bucks again — exited the sport within the fourth quarter with left knee soreness, limiting the Bucks across the perimeter.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer advised reporters after the sport that Middleton sprained his MCL. He’ll bear MRI scans Thursday morning to find out if he can return to the collection.
“You don’t need to see any man get damage, particularly this time of yr,” Vučević mentioned. “Everyone desires to play and compete and be a part of the group. I truthfully hope he’s not injured and he can play as a result of we would like all people to play and actually compete.”
The Bulls return to Chicago to host the Bucks in Sport 3 on Friday — the primary playoff sport on the United Middle in 5 seasons.