Limited by injuries in recent seasons, Deng scored 24 points while grabbing a career-high 20 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls rallied from 18 down to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 83-81 on Tuesday night.
"I'm happy that I'm healthy," Deng said. "Happy to be out there playing. ... I missed playing. I'm happy I'm out there with my teammates and not out on the side watching them."
Even better when he's leading them to a dramatic win.
The Bucks had a chance to win it after Joakim Noah missed two free throws, but Ersan Ilyasova missed a 3-pointer, the ball landing out of bounds with 1.8 seconds left. Just like that, the Bulls were winners. Hard to believe considering how poorly they played in a first half that Brad Miller labeled "humiliating."
Derrick Rose scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls rebounded from back-to-back losses with a wild win. His dunk on a backdoor cut bumped the Bulls' lead to 82-75 with 1:28 left, but he also committed a costly turnover in the final minute, when his bad pass led to a short jumper by Brandon Jennings that made it 82-81 with 22 seconds left.
Miller then hit the second free throw after missing the first, and Rose deflected a shot by Jennings. Noah controlled the ball and immediately got fouled, but he missed both free throws with 13.7 seconds left. That kept the Bucks within two, but they couldn't capitalize.
Jennings took the inbounds, passed off to the scoreless Ilyasova, who forced a shot from the right of the top of the key.
"He's got to put the ball down with his right hand," coach Scott Skiles said. "We've got a guy in the corner and we've go the side cleared out to put it down, go draw and kick. That's not the shot we want to take right there. It looked like he was determined to shoot a 3."
It was a bitter finish for the Bucks, who were without the injured Michael Redd.
He expects to miss about two weeks after straining a tendon in his left knee during Saturday's home opener against Detroit.
Even with their star sidelined, the Bucks were in position to pull this one out.
Jennings outplayed Rose, who missed most of the preseason with an ankle injury, for most of the night and finished with 25 points, while Andrew Bogut added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"[Rose] looked good to me tonight, especially in the second half down the stretch," Jennings said.
Milwaukee was leading 56-38 after Jennings buried a 3-pointer midway through the third, but the Bulls closed out the quarter with an 18-4 run that pulled them within four with him on the bench for much of it. They reeled off 12 in a row after Jennings' shot, with John Salmons' 3-pointer making it 56-50 with just over 3 minutes left. And Deng, coming off a 26-point game against Miami, hit from beyond the arc at the buzzer to make it 60-56.
The Bulls finally tied it at 66 with 8:15 left in the game, after Deng converted a three-point play and Miller buried another 3. Jannero Pargo, playing through back stiffness, gave them their first lead -- 71-68 -- with a 3-pointer midway through the fourth, bringing a roar from a crowd that had witnessed a brutal effort through the first two-and-a-half quarters.
How bad was it?
The Bulls shot 27 percent in the first half, committed 12 of their 19 turnovers and trailed by as much as 18 before going into the locker room down 43-29.
"I think everybody was a little bit embarrassed because of the way we performed in the first half," Noah said.
One Bull who had no reason to be embarrassed was Deng, who looked like a budding star three years ago. Then, he had trouble staying healthy, particularly last season when he missed the final 22 regular-season games and the playoffs with a stress fracture in his right tibia.
"He owes me a meal or something," Miller joked. "I was blocking out rebounders so he could go get about five rebounds. He's glad I'm an old guy who doesn't really need the stats."
Redd accompanied the Bucks to Chicago for Tuesday's game to be examined by Bulls physician Dr. Brian Cole, who operated on him last March. ... Chicago attempted 31 free throws, compared to just 10 for the Bucks. ... Bulls F Tyrus Thomas stayed home with flu-like symptoms.