Chicago Bulls: Top 10 Moments from the 2011-'12 Season
With the NBA Finals around the corner and the dust settling on the Chicago Bulls' season, the harsh realization that the Bulls will not win a championship in 2012 has finally sunk in.
But it's time to wipe away the tears, Chicago fans. Despite the difficult road that lies ahead, we can still take pride in the fact that this team has come a long away in the past three years.
In a lockout-shortened, 66-game season, the Bulls tied the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the league at 50-16. It was the second straight season in which the Bulls captured the top record in the NBA.
Even with MVP Derrick Rose missing 27 games during the season, the Bulls still found a way to finish ahead of the pack. This squad still deserves some recognition.
Here are the top 10 moments of the 2011-'12 Chicago Bulls season.
10. Bulls Roll Through Lob City, Dec. 30
The Chicago Bulls rode Derrick Rose's 29-point, 16-assist effort in arguably the team's best game to date during the young NBA season to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 114-101. The Bulls moved to 3-1 on the year.
The Bulls exploded for 31 points in the fourth quarter to take down the new-look "Lob City" Clippers. A balanced Chicago attack was led by 19 points apiece from Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, with Richard Hamilton contributing 16 points. Carlos Boozer added 10 to round out a double-digit point total for each player in the starting lineup.
9. Bulls Set NBA Record with Win over Bobcats, Feb. 10
Chicago averaged 101.5 points per contest during that four-game stretch and only allowed 77 points per game during that same span.
Joakim Noah led the way for the Bulls with 17 points and 14 rebounds as the Bulls won easily without Derrick Rose in the lineup.
The Bulls relied on their defense to win with or without their star point guard in 2011-'12, allowing a league-best 88.2 points per game for the season. Chicago also led the NBA in point differential, winning by an average of 8.1 points per contest.
8. Bulls Defeat Spurs on Home Turf in Second Game After All-Star Break, Feb. 29
The Chicago Bulls became the second team on the season to knock off the red-hot San Antonio Spurs on their home court in a 96-89 victory in Chicago's second game after the All-Star break.
The Spurs had won 12 out of 13 entering the contest against the Bulls, but Derrick Rose made sure his team left with a W after pouring in 29 points.
In a rough offensive outing for Chicago, Rose was the difference maker and got the best of his counterpart, fellow All-Star Tony Parker, who finished with 11 points and nine assists.
Little did we no how impressive this win was for the Bulls, but this strong Spurs team reeled off 19-straight wins before being put on the brink of elimination on Monday night.
7. Deng Buzzer-Beating Putback Sinks Raptors, Mar. 24
Deng finished the contest with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Carlos Boozer added 24 tallies and 10 boards. Former Bull James Johnson (20 points) and the Raptors had Chicago on the brink of a rare home loss, but Deng's heroics moved the Bulls' record to 40-10.
With six seconds left in overtime and the Bulls trailing by one, Deng received the inbounds pass and handed it off to C.J. Watson. Watson drove the lane and had his shot blocked, but Deng was there to clean up the mess. After the referees reviewed the play, Deng's bucket counted.
6. Rose's 32 Points, 13 Assists Lead Bulls Past Knicks, Feb. 2
In one of the most storied arenas in the NBA, Rose put on a dominating performance with 32 points and 13 assists to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 105-102 triumph over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Rose had 15 points in the final period and Chicago held off the Knicks to move to 19-6 on the season. Amar'e Stoudemire led New York with 34 points and 13 rebounds.
Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, who started for the injured Luol Deng, had 16 points apiece. The Bulls swatted Carmelo Anthony twice in the final minutes as he attempted to get open for a game-tying three.
5. Bulls Hold Magic to 59 Points, Thibs Sets Coaching Record, March 19
The Bulls suffocated the Magic en route to an 85-59 victory. Carlos Boozer led the offense with 24 points and collected 13 rebounds.
Even with Dwight Howard, Orlando was no match for the league's best defensive team on this night. Thibodeau is widely considered one of the great defensive masterminds in the NBA and his team executed his game plan to perfection as the second-year coach made history.
Oh, and the Bulls pounded this playoff squad on its home court despite playing without Derrick Rose once again.
4. Rose Nails Buzzer-Beater to Win Eighth Straight, March 7
Derrick Rose crossed over to his left, rose up and swished a shot over Brandon Jennings to lift the Chicago Bulls to a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The game-winning jumper capped the team's season-long, eight-game winning streak.
Rose had 30 points and 11 assists on a night that will be remembered as one of the better games of his career. Ersan Ilyasova gave the Bucks a fighting chance with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
But this night will be remembered for the former MVP's heroics. It was one of the few bright spots for Rose in a season filled with disappointments.
3. John Lucas III's Career Night Lifts Bulls over Heat, March 14
This photo is the iconic image of the Chicago Bulls 2012 season. John Lucas III's floating shot over LeBron James said it all on a night dominated by the team's little guy.
The 5'11", third-string point guard did more than just provide solid minutes in the absence of Derrick Rose. Lucas shot 75 percent from the field en route to 24 points that helped the Bulls edge the Miami Heat 106-102 at the United Center.
In the post-game press release by the Associated Press, which was published on ESPN.com, Lucas summed up one of the Bulls' strengths—team chemistry—with this quote after arguably the best performance of his career.
"We're like a brotherhood," Lucas said. "When one brother goes down, we have their back."
2. Rose Knocks Down Game Winner to Edge Lakers on Opening Night, Dec. 25
The NBA season was back on Christmas and reigning MVP Derrick Rose made sure Chicago Bulls fans would never forget it. Rose's running hook shot and Luol Deng's block on Kobe Bryant on the final possession lifted Chicago to an 88-87 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.
The Bulls opened the season with a sub-par performance for most of the game, but finished it with a bang. For much of the fourth quarter it looked like the Lakers would capture the win, but Chicago rallied from 11 points down in the final 3:44 and Deng's defense keyed the comeback.
After a Deng steal, Rose floated a shot over Pau Gasol to push the Bulls to a one-point victory on the road. Rose had 22 points in the contest, Deng had 21 points and four steals, and Bryant had 28 points.
1. Watson's Shot Sends Game to OT, Bulls Defeat Heat, April 12
2012 MVP LeBron James missed two free throws to ice the game with 11.4 seconds left and C.J. Watson made the Miami Heat pay on a step-back three with 2.2 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Watson tied the game at 84 and the Chicago Bulls dominated overtime to defeat the Heat 96-86. The Bulls won the game despite Derrick Rose scoring just two points on 1-of-13 shooting. Watson finished with 16 points and Carlos Boozer contributed a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
This victory embodied the team-first concept the Bulls stressed all season long. The squad's best player was having one of the worst games of his career against Chicago's biggest rival, but other players stepped up to fill the void and helped the team obtain a win against Miami.