DeMar DeRozan is expected to be the Chicago Bulls’ erratic starter for a season of consistent production.
“We’ve had some down moments, losing two games in a row, dropping games that we feel like we’ve won. It’s getting our restaurant whooped at home,” the Bulls’ leading scorer said. “We’ve already gone through so many emotions, 20 games in a season. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. You have to lean on that injury.”
Coming off perhaps their best streak and winning back-to-back games, the Bulls look to continue their momentum against the host Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Even amid Chicago’s four-game losing streak, which included a home loss to Orlando that preceded the streak, DeRozan came 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 goes far beyond raw numbers, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after the team’s 118-113 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday.
“He’s a really special player at different levels,” Donovan said. “He is, in a very unique way, because he has so many incredible qualities that he has at the level of play.”
DeRozan had 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting and added eight assists in the win over the Bucks, which began a six-game road trip over Chicago’s long season.
Chicago’s Goran Dragic missed Wednesday’s game with a left hamstring strain, opening the way for Coby White to see an expanded role.
Donovan praised the undefeated White after missing the first eight games due to injury and working through the struggles in his return.
With the Bucks winning and the Celtics winning streak, the Bulls beat the teams with the best NBA record.
While Chicago has played better lately, the Thunder have struggled.
Oklahoma City has dropped three straight games and eight of its last 11.
On Wednesday night, the Thunder rallied from a 19-point deficit to a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter before Denver forced overtime and eventually won 131-126.
Oklahoma City is struggling on the defensive end, dropping to No. 24 in the league in defensive rating after being in the top ten earlier this month.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault is confident his team can get back to playing defense the way it did earlier in the season.
“These guys want to win. If the effort was a problem, the pass might not be as good as it is,” Daigneault said of his team’s defense.
Thunder backup guard Isaiah Joe is coming off a career-high 21-point performance where he went 7 of 10 beyond the arc in the loss to the Nuggets.
“It all comes down to my teammates being able to find me and having the confidence to let me knock down shots,” Joe said. “Every time I get it, it’s a shot that helps.”
Friday’s meeting is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
The last series of the season was taken by the bull.