Solid from long range throughout his career, Deng never became surly as he worked his way through a 1-for-18 dry spell from beyond the 3-point line during the Bulls’ first six games.
His touch has come around of late, although Deng once again had to bide his time before delivering the knockout blow to the Bobcats.
With the Bulls clinging to a one-point lead as a defensive tussle at the United Center reached the final minute, Derrick Rose ran into a roadblock on the left wing before finding Deng out front at the 3-point line.
But the veteran still needed a pump-fake to get the Bobcats’ Jeff Taylor to fly past. He then gathered himself once again to nail the shot with 27.1 seconds remaining that sealed the Bulls' fifth consecutive victory.
“I’m just glad I had enough time,” Deng said. “Honestly, I just caught the ball, I saw him close out hard, he went for the pump-fake and I had a good look.”
Things hardly looked that smooth in the early going this season, when Deng was only a part of an epidemic of poor shooting that left the Bulls with a 1-3 record. Even in its midst, Deng continued to say the team’s collective shooting touch would return.
Despite three separate games during which he was 0-for-3 from 3-point range, not to mention an 0-for-5 nightmare in the season opener at Miami, Deng met it all with a shrug.
“He’s been around for a long time and, as I have said, a big part of your offense is dependent on precision, timing, spacing and the guys working together,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s hard to get your timing when you don’t have everybody working together.”
The Bulls are still working on that timing. Rose, who has been dealing with a hamstring issue of late, struggled again Monday, with a 4-for-13 shooting night. But it was a particularly rough night for the entire team against some stifling Bobcats defense.
Charlotte was among the NBA’s worst teams on defense last season, giving up 102.7 points per game. But the Bobcats entered play Monday fourth-best this season, at 93.6 per game.
“I said it before, I think every game is going to be a different story and the sign of a good team is finding a way to win,” said Deng, who finished with a game-high 21 points Monday. “We have enough weapons that when some guys don’t have it going, other guys can pick it up. But every game is going to be a different story and as the season goes on, we will be in a situation like this again and this game will come in handy.
“The way we found a way to win, we’re going to have to do it again at some point.”
Deng has been key to the Bulls’ charge of late. He has averaged 21 points in the three most recent Bulls victories, while also contributing 24 rebounds.
“Sometimes you have to find different ways to win,” Thibodeau said. “We showed a lot of toughness down the stretch.”