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DeMar DeRozan delivers OT magic for the Chicago Bulls in 132-129 victory over the Indiana Pacers — but Coby White’s injury looms over the win

INDIANAPOLIS — DeMar DeRozan never practices missing shots. So it was a foreign feeling when he attempted to purposefully miss his second free throw with three seconds left and a two-point deficit on the scoreboard in Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Wednesday.

Alex Caruso gave some quick advice — get the ball up as high as possible, try to place it on one side of the rim or the other and hope for the best. DeRozan tossed the ball high and it ricocheted as if he’d been practicing the move his whole career.

DeRozan moves with an uncommon ease in these moments. So after a purposeful miss and a lucky bounce, he was primed to end the game as a hero once again. The Bulls drew up a play for DeRozan. He broke it almost immediately, stepping down the baseline to pirouette and launch the tying shot that ultimately sent the Bulls to their 10th overtime of the season.

And when he returned to the bench, DeRozan turned to guard Jevon Carter to issue a promise: “I’m gonna go crazy.”

DeRozan roped in nine points in overtime to close a 46-point performance, his highest-scoring night of the season and his fifth game with 45 or more points in his career as a Bull. Another clutch scoring night for the Bulls lifted them to a 132-129 win over the Indiana Pacers.

“Hall of Famer. One of the best scorers this game has ever seen,” Ayo Dosunmu said of DeRozan after the game. “He was locked in. I was very impressed with DeMar, just throughout the whole flow of the game, he was locked in no matter what. That’s very crucial for us, for him to be our leader, to always have that mindset and know that we have a chance to win no matter what.”

Despite the victory, the Bulls face a looming question after Wednesday’s win: the injury outlook for star guard Coby White, who exited the game after suffering a right hip injury in the final five seconds of regulation.

White was attempting to seal the win for the Bulls without the need for overtime, streaking up the court after grabbing a long-arcing rebound and leaping for a layup that would send the Bulls ahead by three points. But Pascal Siakam ran with him, swatting the shot away and landing on White in the process.

Upon landing, White’s left leg buckled up as his right leg splayed out at a 90-degree angle, twisting his hip outward. White immediately grabbed his thigh in pain but managed to walk to the locker room under his own power with a heavy limp.

Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (0) grabs his leg after a collision during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. White left the game and did not return. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Chicago Bulls guard Coby White grabs his leg after a collision during the second half in Indianapolis on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Coach Billy Donovan confirmed after the game that White suffered a right hip injury. He will undergo scans when the team returns to Chicago. Donovan said the Bulls medical staff would be unable to assess the severity of that injury until they received those test results.

“We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed it’s nothing too serious,” Donovan said.

White declined to speak to the media after the game, but he was able to stand and walk around in the locker room while chatting and laughing with teammates during media availability.

The loss of White tested the Bulls in another clutch finish, which could have reduced the offense to solely rely on DeRozan to produce the majority of scoring in overtime. But even without their star guard, the Bulls had the advantage of experience.

The Pacers aren’t used to these moments. This was their first overtime game of the season. The Bulls, in comparison, have spent a league-leading 55 minutes in overtime — and 179 in the clutch — this season.

DeRozan opened overtime with his typical offensive focus, scoring the first eight points for the Bulls. But the Pacers began to trap in earnest, attempting to get the ball out of DeRozan’s hands well above the 3-point line. This simply opened up the rest of the Bulls offense.

After the Pacers sprung a trap with just under a minute left in overtime, DeRozan told Dosunmu to go to the rim. He followed instructions at full speed, snagged the ensuing pass and scored a quick finger-rolling layup. On the next play, the Bulls followed the same strategy but fed Torrey Craig instead.

Each time the Bulls broke this trapping strategy, it outlined an important blueprint for the Bulls in future clutch games.

“It’s like a survival mode that kicks in — in a fun way,” DeRozan said. “You embrace those moments. For me, I just thrive off the moments. I’m not scared to fail. I’m not scared to make something happen. I want those moments more than anything. It always reminds me of my childhood, being a kid, doing a little fake countdown, jumping on the bed, shooting the shot. As a competitor, those moments are always something I try to relish in.”

Julia Poe , 2024-03-14 04:42:45

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