MILWAUKEE — After an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance in Game 1 of this first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan made a guarantee that there was no way he would shoot so poorly again.
In the days between Games 1 and 2, he watched film of every shot he missed. After the Bulls’ team bus arrived in Milwaukee the night before Game 2, DeRozan returned to Fiserv Forum once again to put up extra shots in an attempt to get back in rhythm.
And then on Wednesday, DeRozan made good on his guarantee, setting a playoff career high with 41 points on 16-for-31 shooting to lead the Bulls to a 114-110 victory that evened the series at 1-1.
“I looked at all my missed shots from Game 1, most of them shots are my shots,” DeRozan said after the game Wednesday. “I’ll never let a miss deter me from taking my next jump shot. And not being aggressive. I just knew [a bad shooting night], it wasn’t gonna happen.”
DeRozan set a career high in scoring during his first season in Chicago, carrying the Bulls to victory with performances like these. Still, he became only the fifth Bulls player in franchise history to score 40 points during a playoff game and the first since Derrick Rose in 2011.
“He’s capable of doing that every night,” Bulls center Nikola Vucevic said of DeRozan. “He’s a helluva player. He’s a helluva scorer.
“He plays with such poise. He missed some shots in Game 1 that he’s usually good at making. Tonight, he just stayed aggressive. Obviously, he made some very tough ones, especially down the stretch, some big, big shots.
“We’ve seen him doing it all season long. … He might not go for 41 every night, but he has the capability of making big shots every night.”
DeRozan was responsible for creating his own offense for most of the night, knocking down 14 of 27 shots off the dribble, more than the entire Bucks team.
And perhaps most impressively, he shot 8-of-9 from the field for 16 points with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo as his primary defender, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Those eight field goals are the most Antetokounmpo has allowed against a single playoff opponent in his career.
“He’s a great player. He’s a guy that’s tough to guard because he wants to shoot those midrange shots,” Antetokounmpo said. “He wants to get to his spot. He has great bounce, great rhythm to him. He’s going to make a lot of those shots. He did it in the regular season. He’s doing it tonight.
“But at the end of the day, I feel like we contested every shot. He wasn’t open. We did our job and at the end of the day, sometimes you do your job and it still is not enough.”
With their win Wednesday night, the Bulls got their first victory over the Bucks with Antetokounmpo in the lineup since Dec. 26, 2017. Chicago has challenged Milwaukee through a competitive first two games of this series, a stark contrast from the Bulls team that scuffled to the end of the regular season, dropping 10 of its last 15 games.
“We had a long season,” Bulls guard Alex Caruso said. “We had a lot of adversity. There was almost a little bit of, like, we were just trying to start the playoffs already. We were kind of in a hole. But we got our spirit back.”
Source: ESPN NBA