DeMar DeRozan's emotional outburst costs Bulls big game

Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets
Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets / Tim Warner/GettyImages

For Thursday night in March, the aura in Houston was unusually tense as the Chicago Bulls prepared for a big game against the Rockets. Owners of a 34-35 record, a win would boost the Bulls back to a .500 record for the first time since the season opener and help them catch ground on a few struggling teams ahead of them in the standings.

It wouldn't be an easy ask, however, as the Rockets entered as winners of six straight and eight of their last nine games. Despite having a similarly mediocre 33-35 record as Chicago, the Rockets are a team that's getting hot at just the right time. The Bulls would need to be on top of their game if they wanted to escape with a road victory.

Unfortunately, that would not end up being the case. Typically a stoic leader for Chicago, DeMar DeRozan let his emotions get the best of himself last night. Shooting a poor 4-for-15 from the field, he was very clearly irritated with the lack of calls going his way on the offensive end.

Tensions finally boiled over when DeRozan practically clotheslined — or as Stacey King would call it, "committing a hard foul" — Houston's Jalen Green with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Green's teammate Dillon Brooks quickly rushed to his aid, and the ensuing scuffle resulted in both players getting ejected from the contest.

DeMar DeRozan cannot allow his emotions to get the best of him if the Bulls hope to make a late-season run.

Sacrificing Dillon Brooks to get DeMar DeRozan out of the game? That's a trade the Rockets will take every single time.

Already down 76-84 after play resumed following the ejection, things didn't go any smoothly from there. Houston would continue stretching their lead in the third quarter before Chicago's halfcourt offense would completely fall apart in the fourth. The Bulls would go on to lose 117-127, leaving yet another opportunity to get back to .500 on the board.

This was a particularly uncharacteristic performance from DeRozan, as he can usually be counted on to be this team's levelheaded leader. We've witnessed this firsthand as he's managed to remain calm and collected in the clutch time and time again this season. It was clear to see that this Bulls team simply wasn't prepared to compete without his presence down the stretch.

“I don’t play the walking up on somebody when their back is turned. Nah, that’s just not a thing we do,” DeRozan told reporters, “I just felt like it’s an issue walking up on any man from behind.”

With how much burden DeRozan's been forced to carry — currently leading the NBA in total minutes played — alongside a thin rotation, I understand if the stress of dragging the depleted Bulls to the playoffs is getting to him. But if Chicago has any hope of clawing their way back into the playoffs, DeMar needs to get it together, and he needs to do it fast.

The Bulls only have 12 games remaining on the schedule from here. Their next chance to get back to .500 will be against the Celtics on Saturday. Boston has posted an incredible 26-1 record against teams with a sub-.500 win percentage this season, so the Bulls odds aren't looking great, to say the least.

Still, Chicago's next three games will take place in the United Center, and they'll now be forced to approach each game from here on out as a potential do-or-die scenario. If there was ever a time for this team to show what they're really made of, it would be right now.

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