History was made on Saturday when Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan became the first player in the NBA to record buzzer-beaters on consecutive days.
Less than 24 hours after draining a last-second three-pointer to beat the Indiana Pacers 108-106, the four-time NBA All Star stepped up to record another game-deciding display against the Washington Wizards.
The Bulls trailed their hosts 117-119 when DeRozan let fly just as the clock went red at the Capital One Arena, cuing a sea of celebration from as their cool and collected leader sealed the win by a single point.
BasketballReference.com asserted this was the first time a player has ever decided NBA games on back-to-back days via two buzzer-beaters, which stands out as one of the rarest records among basketball’s elite.
The 32-year-old was under pressure from two defenders as he turned on the far corner of the D with a second left in Saturday’s visit to Washington, faking once before sending in the tide-turning shot.
DeRozan’s achievement is made all the more incredible due to the fact the buzzer-beating shots occurred in different years, having sunk his first at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in the final hours of 2021.
“It’s amazing, especially doing it on the road,” DeRozan said on a video call after Saturday’s win. “I don’t know if I’m dreaming or if it’s real right now.
“You work your butt off and you understand that if you’re in those positions, try to capitalise on them the best way you can because you’re going to have games where you miss some.
“It’s just an honour to be trusted in the fourth quarter. Whether things are going good or going bad, my team, teammates always leaned on me to be that calm presence to bring us home. I always bring that calm presence as much as I can in the fourth quarter, letting guys understand, as long we got time we got a chance.”
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The former Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs star finished Saturday’s game with 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr could do little else other than admire the play as he told reporters: “He just made a heck of a play. He was defended pretty well. It’s just tough. It’s tough to lose a game like that.”
Victory over the Wizards also means the Bulls have now won seven in a row, with Chicago sat atop the Central Division as things stand.
That’s despite the fact they’ve played four games fewer than current runners-up and reigning NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks.
DeRozan’s pinpoint three was all the sweeter after Kyle Kuzma had hit a go-ahead three-pointer for Washington on the previous play.
“DeMar told me, ‘Hold my beer,'” said Kuzma after the game.
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Bulls team-mate Lonzo Ball has been unavailable this past week after he was one of three Chicago players who recently tested positive for Covid-19.
However, Ball tuned into the match and showed appreciation for his comrade’s achievement, tweeting simply: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH” while tagging DeRozan.
Not only are the Bulls sat ahead in the Central Division, but their 24-10 record stands apart as the best record in the Eastern Conference.
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Chicago head coach Billy Donovan is among those currently unavailable due to the Covid-19 protocol, but acting deputy Chris Fleming was delighted to pass control of the team back in such a good state.
“I’m quite relieved I can give this back to coach,” he said after Saturday’s result. “I was very fortunate enough to be able to experience this from the head coaching standpoint and see the guys from a little bit of a different side.
“I told them after that I was thankful for the partnership and how hard they poured themselves into making the situation a good one. That’s pretty much how their character has been all season. They’ve been resilient, they’ve handled other blows and different guys have been out and they’ve just kept chugging.”