It was fair to wonder if the Chicago Bulls were about to start free-falling down the standings after stringing together two of their worst performances of the season in back-to-back games during the second week of Dec. The Bulls were riding a four-game winning streak heading into Cleveland on Dec. 8 before getting smacked by the Cavs, 115-92, with four players out in health and safety protocol, headlined by the absence of DeMar DeRozan.
Three nights later, the Bulls traveled to Miami and learned they now had seven players in protocol after positive tests to Ayo Dosunmu and Stanley Johnson — who hadn’t even played a game with the team since signing a hardship exception. The Heat were without Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and others, but they still gave the Bulls a 26-point whooping.
Two days later, Zach LaVine tested positive for Covid for the second time in nine months, and the Bulls suddenly had 10 (!) players in protocol. The next two games, against the Pistons and Raptors, were mercifully postponed, giving the Bulls a chance to catch their breath and momentarily stop the bleeding.
Since then, it’s been straight dubs, baby.
DeRozan scored 19 points in the fourth quarter against the Lakers for the first win of the streak. Ayo locked up Trae Young after an explosive first quarter for their fourth win of the streak. DeRozan hit two of the greatest buzzer-beaters in franchise history for the sixth and seventh wins of the streak. Coby White and Dosunmu combined for 39 points off the bench against the Wizards in the ninth win of the streak.
These nine straight wins have been the epitome of a full-team effort. It’s been DeRozan’s impossible poise in crunch-time, LaVine fully unleashing a totally unguardable scoring arsenal, Nikola Vucevic hitting the glass and glueing together the defense, Lonzo bombing threes, Ayo providing incredible energy off the bench, Coby hitting his shots, attacking closeouts, and finally thriving in the role he was always meant to have. It was Alfonzo McKinnie hitting some big threes against the Rockets, Matt Thomas hitting some big threes in the first win against the Hawks, Tyler Cook detonating the rim in the second win against Atlanta, and Troy Brown Jr. acting as the connective tissue the team needed with Lonzo and Alex Caruso missing a stretch of games. It’s Chris Fleming sliding over to the head coaching seat for five games and going undefeated.
It’s easy to see a stretch like this and wonder what it means in the big picture. Are the Bulls a legitimate championship contender? Is DeRozan going to be First-Team All-NBA? Does the team need to make another bold trade to add one more major piece for the playoff run?
These are all legitimate discussions, but right now, I really feel like we’re best basking in the glow of this moment. This is the best time to be a Bulls fan in at least a decade, and we have no idea when it will be this good again. The playoffs are going to be an all-out battle if the Bulls have to see Giannis going Greek God mode or the Nets with Kyrie. Next season will come with the burden of serious expectations. We can’t say for sure that DeMar can do this again next season, that the chemistry can remain this perfect, that every button Billy Donovan pushes will continue to work.
No one watched more shitty basketball than Bulls fans over the last four years. This entire season has felt charmed in the best possible way. However it goes from here, I’ll always remember this streak. To quote the great philosopher Ted Lasso:
Living in the moment is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.— Ted Lasso (@TedLasso) September 11, 2021
Enjoy it, my friends. We deserve this.
DeMar DeClosin’ (™Will Gottlieb)
Certain sports moments get burned into your brain forever for where you were when you watched them. I remember carrying a TV outside and running an extension chord through the length of my apartment to watch Nate Robinson’s NBA Jam second half against the Nets in the 2013 playoffs. I remember running home from my friend’s place to write a column after D. Rose hit the game-winner against the Cavs in the 2015 playoffs. I remember having a meltdown live on camera when the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler.
DeMar DeRozan had not one but two of those moments in the last week.
I was traveling on New Years Eve and missed almost all of Bulls-Pacers live. I got to a friend’s house just in time to catch the final few minutes of the game, and watch DeRozan hit one of the most ridiculous game-winners you’ll ever seen.
The next day, I was at home watching the Wizards game, begging my gf to watch the final 20 seconds of regulation. She had precisely zero interest in breaking her concentration from whatever TikTok she was watching on the couch, and was telling me as much when Kyle Kuzma hit the go-ahead three on the penultimate possession.
“Just watch the last four seconds. Please please please please please please please WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”
Just unreal, man. I think Zach LaVine put it best.
Zach LaVine: "Thank God we got DeMar DeRozan on our team."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) January 2, 2022
The fan views of these game-winners are so much fun.
Against the Pacers:
DEMARVELOUS pic.twitter.com/x0FORMT3mN— Armchair Illinois (@ArmchairIllini) December 31, 2021
Against the Wizards:
This was my angle of DeMar DeRozan's game winner. One of my best games witnessed in Capital One Arena. pic.twitter.com/PonPZ6mEbZ— wizzy (@youngwizzyDFS) January 2, 2022
“The perfect photo doesn’t exi.....”
COMING TO A CITY NEAR YOU.@DeMar_DeRozan | #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/vGKkZYKYDS— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 2, 2022
The post-game locker room party also filled me with so much joy:
THIS TEAM. pic.twitter.com/WH43B4Aa1t— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 2, 2022
After the Wizards game, DeMar gave a quote that could sum up this entire season for himself and the team: “I don’t know if I’m dreaming or if it’s real.”
"I don't know if I'm dreaming, or if it's real."@DeMar_DeRozan after hitting two #TissotBuzzerBeater's in back-to-back games. pic.twitter.com/bUB8O6y8t9— NBA (@NBA) January 2, 2022
Cash Considerations money well spent:
Shout out to the newest Bull, Jordan Bell, for making sure to grab the game ball both times, find you a teammate like this pic.twitter.com/DS2XwspkUP— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 2, 2022
By the way, DeMar hasn’t lost a game since Nov. 27.
What a time.
DeMar came out to Ayo’s jersey retirement ceremony in Champaign. That’s love ❤️ pic.twitter.com/T5X68wmsMw— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 7, 2022
Chicago Bulls guard and former Illini basketball player Ayo Dosunmu attends a retiring ceremony for his jersey during half time between Illinois and the Maryland Terrapins at the State Farm Center Thursday in Champaign. His parents and Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan attended. pic.twitter.com/2u93w8j4RT— armando l sanchez (@mandophotos) January 7, 2022
I also enjoyed going back and watching all of Ayo’s clutch shots at Illinois
The Grim Reaper returns to Champaign tonight. pic.twitter.com/RCltvvklod— Isaac Trotter (@Isaac__Trotter) January 6, 2022
I talked to Ayo and his dad for a feature just before the NCAA tournament “run” that probably pushed him to the second round. Thank you, Lucas Williamson and Cam Krutwig, for being true Chicagoans by forcing Ayo into six turnovers in that round of 32 loss and making him fall to the No. 38 pick.
Coby White on Billy Donovan calling him a winning player: "That's dope."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 8, 2022
DeMar’s post-game free throws
Bulls game ended about 30 min ago. They’re breaking down the United Center court to switch over to hockey— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) January 4, 2022
But DeMar DeRozan after going an uncharacteristic 7 for 13 at FT line is out here still shooting FTs pic.twitter.com/Ri5bjJejHy
Bulls got the whole country seeing red. https://t.co/x6Mo73VOrX— DeMar DeRozan Enjoyer (@TheTyronePalmer) December 31, 2021
The only explanation
On me Derozan sold his soul to Satan— sam (@fbl_sam) January 2, 2022
The Booz News
After LeBron's first season, Cavs fans deserved better pieces around the King.— Secret Base (@secretbase) January 7, 2022
Instead they got the Carlos Boozer contract fiascohttps://t.co/jyTrRXaUAt pic.twitter.com/tqX67FQDF6
This has been the Booz News.