NBA: Surging DeMar DeRozan, Bulls face slumping Thunder


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DeMar DeRozan is hopeful the Chicago Bulls’ erratic start to the season will settle into consistent production.

“We’ve had some down moments, losing two games in a row, dropping games we feel like we should have won. Getting our butts whooped at home,” the Bulls’ leading scorer said. “We’ve kind of went through so many emotions already, 20 games into the season. Sometimes, that’s beneficial. You’ve got to soak in that hurt.”

Coming off perhaps their best win and having won back-to-back games, the Bulls look to continue their momentum against the host Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

Even during Chicago’s four-game losing streak, which included a home loss to Orlando, that preceded their current winning streak, DeRozan was coming up big.

Over the last six games, the veteran forward is averaging 30.3 points and 4.7 assists while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor.

DeRozan’s impact has gone far beyond the raw numbers, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after his team’s 118-113 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“He really is a special player on a lot of different levels,” Donovan said. “He’s very, very unique in a special way because he has so many incredible qualities that make him the level of player that he is.”

DeRozan had 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting and added eight assists in the win over the Bucks that began Chicago’s season-long six-game road trip.

Chicago’s Goran Dragic missed Wednesday’s game with a left cervical stinger, opening the way for Coby White to see an expanded role.

Donovan praised White’s resiliency after missing the first eight games of November due to injury and working his way through struggles upon his return.

With wins over the Bucks and the Celtics during their current winning streak, the Bulls have beaten the teams with the NBA’s top two records.

While Chicago has played better of late, the Thunder have struggled.

Oklahoma City has dropped three consecutive games and eight of its last 11.

Wednesday night, the Thunder battled back from a 19-point deficit to take a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter before Denver forced overtime and ultimately won 131-126.

Oklahoma City continues to struggle on the defensive end, having dropped to No. 24 in the league in defensive rating after being in the top 10 earlier this month.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault is confident his team can get back to playing defense the way it did early in the season.

“These guys want to win. If effort was a problem, the pace wouldn’t be as good as it is,” Daigneault said of his team’s defense.

Thunder reserve guard Isaiah Joe is coming off a career-high 21-point performance where he went 7 of 10 from beyond the arc in the loss to the Nuggets.

“All the credit goes to my teammates being able to find me and have that trust letting me knock down shots,” Joe said. “Every time I get a shot it’s assisted.”

Friday’s meeting is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.

The Bulls swept last season’s series.

–Field Level Media


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