The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan continues carving up opposition from mid-range

The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan continues carving up opposition from mid-range

There is no deadlier scorer in the fourth quarter in the NBA right now than DeRozan, and even more impressive? He’s doing it with the lost art of the mid-range jumper.

DeMar DeRozan knows the mid-range jump shot is a lost art.

A discipline that only a few still brandish from city to city, arena to arena.

The Bulls forward also knows its power. Especially late in games, when the lesser man tends to flinch under the pressure of the moment.

Not DeRozan.

That’s when his weapon is at its sharpest with the intent to not only cut, but cut deep.

“It’s just repetition over and over, countless days, nights of just being real with the attention to detail to how defenders guard you,’’ DeRozan said, discussing his mid-range craft in detail. “Whether it’s long, strong, tall players, I just put a lot of that into consideration when I’m getting to a spot or when I’m getting to a move. It’s nothing but a feel for me.’’

Spoken like a true assassin.

DeRozan hasn’t just been the best Bulls player in the fourth quarter of games, he’s been the best, period. Throughout the entire NBA landscape, no one has scored more in the final quarter of games than the 32-year-old veteran.

The latest evidence of that? Look how DeRozan helped the Bulls escape New York, and did so leaning heavily on his mid-range game.

Thursday against the Knicks, DeRozan silenced the home team’s late-game comeback, scoring 18 points in the final quarter on 6-for-7 shooting. Then on Saturday in coming back against the first-place Nets, he went 6-for-11 from the field, as his 13 points in that final quarter was the difference in the game.

Going into Monday against Denver, DeRozan was putting up a league-best 7.7 points per game in the fourth, while shooting 52.9% from the field. And just in case the opposition wants to foul him in late-game situations? How about 90% from the free throw line in the final quarter to go along with everything else he’s been doing.

“It helps our team tremendously, especially if we’re frantic,’’ teammate Zach LaVine said of DeRozan’s presence late in games. “He’s been in these big-time games, situations, so I don’t think a lot of things rattle him at all. You let him take over the game, calm it down, get to the free throw line, get to his spots, and I think it gives the whole team like a deep breath, like ‘We’re OK.’ ‘’

The impressive part of everything DeRozan has done? While most of the league has fallen in love with the three or even trying to attack the rim in close games, most of DeRozan’s damage comes from that non-paint two area.

A shooting spot on the floor that was frowned upon a few years ago, but thanks to the likes of a DeRozan is not only coming back, but being appreciated.

One of DeRozan’s favorite players to watch when he was coming up was Kobe Bryant. The Laker great could score from anywhere on the hardwood, but his mid-range was his soul-taker of the opposition.

DeRozan studied his idol for countless hours, and has not only mastered the mid-range, but continues working on it.

“I feel like I try to master [the mid-range] whenever I get into an offseason, understanding my angles, getting shots off whether it’s off the dribble, going right, going left, off counters, off fade-aways, post-ups … It took years,’’ DeRozan said. “It’s not something that happened over night.’’

That’s why his game isn’t going to change anytime soon. DeRozan will hit the occasional three, he’ll attack the rim with either hand, but he knows the mid-range is his business, and business has been booming this season.

“I forgot who it was, but it was an older player that told me just stick to what you’re great at and master that,’’ DeRozan said. “That was all the confidence I needed, especially when the game started changing in 2014, 15. I just stuck to my guns and continued to try and be the best at that.’’

As this season has shown, mission accomplished.

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