LOS ANGELES — Every time Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan has come to play in Los Angeles during his 13-year NBA career, the games have been special for him, but the Bulls’ 100-90 victory over the LA Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center carried a bit more weight.
DeRozan, who grew up in nearby Compton, revealed after the game that this was his first time playing in Los Angeles since his father, Frank, died in February after a long illness.
“Every time I came home, it was always an honor,” DeRozan said. “This is my first time coming home to play since my dad passed. And he was at every game. He didn’t miss any games. [Sunday] was one of those games that, you know, I wish he was here.”
DeRozan scored a game-high 35 points to help lead the Bulls to a bounce-back victory following a 26-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday. He helped stave off a Clippers comeback in the fourth quarter, knocking down all four of his shots and finishing with nine points to help seal the victory, which snapped LA’s seven-game winning streak.
The normally nonchalant DeRozan was noticeably more animated on the floor during the final period. At one point, after spinning past Clippers guard Terance Mann and scoring over the outstretched hand of Nicolas Batum, DeRozan stopped and mean mugged to admire his work before heading to the free throw line for the and-1. After Zach LaVine hit a corner 3 through a double team with less than a minute to go in the game, DeRozan greeted LaVine with a hug.
DeRozan downplayed postgame that he was showing any extra emotion because it was his first game in L.A. since his father died, but he noted that he doesn’t take playing in games close to home for granted.
“It’s just always fun to come home and play, especially against a good team,” DeRozan said. “The Clippers are a hell of a team. We just got our butts whooped and we wanted to respond. And we did.”
LaVine added 29 points to complement DeRozan’s performance, giving the two players a combined 64 points, matching their highest combined total this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It’s the third time this season they have combined to score at least 60 points in a game.
DeRozan and LaVine have formed one of the best scoring duos in the NBA in their first year together in Chicago, but it almost didn’t happen. DeRozan acknowledged Sunday night that he almost signed in Los Angeles before the Bulls swooped in and attracted him to Chicago.
“But what happens happens how it needs to happen,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier in Chicago honestly. So it works out 1000% perfect when it needs to.”