During the first weeks of the season, Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan found himself in a two-way battle with Stephen Curry for the starting favorite for MVP.

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As the weeks went by, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo put their names in the race, and Durant ranked first on the Sporting News MVP Ladder last week.

DeRozan missed the Bulls’ last three games after entering the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, but in his first game back, he sent out a timely reminder that his name belongs to the elite group that struggles. for the award.

Leading the Bulls to a thrilling 115-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, DeRozan looked like the MVP, tying his season record with 38 points, the second time this season he has scored 38 against the Lakers, and his eighth. of 30 points. game of the season.

He scored 19 of his 38 in the fourth quarter, the most he has scored in the fourth quarter of his career, dragging the Bulls almost single-handedly to victory, who also didn’t have Zach LaVine.

LaVine was quick to rave about his teammate and took to Twitter late in the fourth quarter.

Tormenting the Lakers with a series of mid-range jump shots, DeRozan might have been mistaken for # 23 instead of # 11, such was the intensity and ferocity that he was attacking the Lakers defense as the The United Center crowd broke the MVP chants while on the free throw line.

His 38 points came on 11 of 24 from the field and 16 of 17 at the free throw line, without attempting a single triple. I mean, could you get one more shot of DeMar DeRozan than the one below?

The fourth quarter of DeRozan vs. Lakers

(NBA Getty Images)

“There is calm in him,” said the Bulls head coach. Billy Donovan said by DeRozan after the game. “He doesn’t get nervous.”

MORE: DeMar DeRozan inducted into the Hall of Fame?

According to Marc Spears of The UndefeatedDeRozan is the first Bulls player in the past 25 years to score 50 fourth-quarter points in a span of three games, with Michael Jordan being the only player to average more than his 38 points against the Lakers in a single season.

His fourth-quarter acquisition adds to a long list already this season, with the 32-year-old leading the league in fourth-quarter scoring average, with only Jayson Tatum scoring more total points, having played six. games more than the Bulls star right now. season.

NBA Fourth Quarter Scoring Leaders
Jayson tatum 208 6.9 42.5 38.2
DeMar DeRozan 197 8.2 53.8 45.5
Giannis Antetokounmpo 174 7.3 54.1 31.8
Kevin During 169 7.0 47.6 33.3
Zach LaVine 163 6.5 49.1 38.5

“I just put it down to my hard work, honestly,” DeRozan said via the Chicago Sun-Times. “I train and put my mind to the perspective of not early in the season until late in the season, I go into games with the same understanding mentality: I’m a huge boxing fan and I love to see a lot of guys realize the fight early and dominate later in the fight. They call it the championship rounds in boxing. I really like that mentality at the end of games and I understand that that’s where it gets the most difficult.

“So for me, finding ways to make it easier for me and my teammates, that’s the mindset that I approach it with at the end of the game, and it’s been helpful to me and my teammates.”

After the victory, the Bulls improved to 18-10 on the season, ranking second in the Eastern Conference, 2.0 games behind the Brooklyn Nets.

As the league grapples with a number of players missing games due to health and safety protocols, the Bulls couldn’t be happier to have their MVP back on the court.