DeMar DeRozan made history and your Chicago Bulls nabbed their fifth straight win tonight, besting the visiting Sacramento Kings 125-118. Tonight marked Chicago’s last game ahead of the weeklong All-Star break.
The Bulls, despite several backcourt injuries and the one key front court absence, manage to hold on against Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox, and the rest of a frisky Kings team hellbent on grabbing the West’s tenth seed.
All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan carved out his own spot in history tonight with another insane midrange-centric masterpiece. DeRozan scored 38 points, with a lot of his typical pump-fakes, crossovers and pull-up jumpers from his favorite midrange locales, on 16-of-27 shooting from the floor, along with six rebounds and six assists. By logging his seventh straight game with 35+ points scored on 50% shooting or better, DeRozan moves past Wilt Chamberlin as the only player in NBA history to achieve such a lofty scoring feat! Tonight also marked a career-most eighth straight 30+ point game for DeRozan.
HISTORY.— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 17, 2022
DeMar DeRozan becomes the first player in NBA history with seven straight games of 35+ points and 50% or better shooting. pic.twitter.com/5Brb0ENCEv
There’s a reason the 32-year-old veteran, enjoying his best season ever, is working his way into the fringes of the MVP conversation. He even knocked down a three for good measure tonight, his first in four games!
Birthday boy Coby White (who turned all of 22 today) continued to demonstrate that he has a lot more in his bag than just slick triples, often pushing the pace and scoring with a litany of layups in the paint. He scored a season-high 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, across 39 minutes of action. White also chipped in six assists and five boards.
With the victory, the 38-21 Bulls move into solo first place in the East by percentage points over the 37-21 Heat, who will play the Hornets tomorrow. Should Jimmy and co. defeat MJ’s squad and tie Chicago’s current record, Miami will enter the All-Star break in first place.
The Bulls led most of the night, though their margin was rarely comfortable until late in the fourth quarter. Bulls led 65-59 at the half, led by a balanced scoring attack from the Bulls’ starters, who accounted for 59 of those 65 points. Four Bulls (everyone except Ayo Dosunmu) were already in double-digits by the game’s midpoint.
Early in the second half, All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine, recently returned from Los Angeles, joined the Bulls on the sidelines (albeit not in uniform).
Chicago held onto a tenuous lead for most of the second half. The Bulls led by as many as nine in the third quarter, but thanks to some balanced scoring from Kings bench contributors Donte DiVincenzo and Chimezie Metu, plus starting forward Maurice Harkless, the Kings briefly knotted it up at 88-88 near the end of the period, before a pair of free throws from DeRozan got Chicago in front, 90-88, heading into the final period. DeRozan, the aptly-nicknamed King of the Fourth, had already scored 26 points before the game’s final period even kicked off!
Tonight’s referees tried to keep things close late by ignoring some clear hacks from Kings perimeter players on DeRozan. DeRozan and White ultimately helped the Bulls pull away late in the fourth quarter. White poured in 13 points in the frame, DeRozan had 12. The Bulls finally carved out a semi-comfortable margin in the game’s last 3:51, following a DeRozan three-point play.
The Bulls, still missing LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams, relied heavily on their starters (White, Ayo Dosunmu, DeRozan, Javonte Green, Nikola Vucevic) on both ends of the floor tonight. Those players, who all scored in double figures, had 117 of Chicago’s cumulative 125-point tally for the night. Vucevic enjoyed yet another quietly big night, scoring 21 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. He also played active defense and nailed some clutch free throws late.
Dosunmu continues to impress, especially as a defensive menace. Check out this bonkers Ayo chase down block of new Kings guard DiVincenzo:
What a freaking block this was by Ayo Dosunmu pic.twitter.com/ytXB71aBpA— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) February 17, 2022
The victory wasn’t the only good news Chicago received late tonight. It appears that the Bulls’ front line will be getting reinforcements from the buyout market after all. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Pacers have waived former Kings center Tristan Thompson. Should Thompson not be claimed in waivers, he’ll reach free agency.
The Indiana Pacers will waive center Tristan Thompson, coach Rick Carlisle says. Thompson will sign a new deal with the Chicago Bulls after he clears waivers.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 17, 2022
Rick Carlisle verified Thompson’s impending decision to relocate to a different Central Division club tonight:
Rick Carlisle on Tristan Thompson playing his final game with the Indiana Pacers: pic.twitter.com/RWjdUaYQTj— Alex Golden (@AlexGoldenNBA) February 17, 2022
K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago speculates that the Bulls will most likely waive wing Alfonso McKinnie, who has fallen out of Billy Donovan’s rotation, to make room for Thompson.