Tell me if before the season you had the Chicago Bulls winning 62 games, finishing with the best record in the NBA, home court advantage throughout the playoffs, the presumptive MVP and Coach Of the Year, all the while remaining a team that flat out loves to play with one another.
If you said yes, allow me to call you a liar here publicly.
Without question, the Bulls have already exceeded all hopes and predictions for the 2010-2011 season. Simply reading the last paragraph sends chills through my spine, and the big games are still to come. Soon we will all know just how good this precocious team can be in its sudden championship aspirations. But for now, on the last day of the regular season, it is time to reflect a bit.
For those Bulls fans that think teams like this one grow on trees and that the cycle from Michael Jeffrey Jordan to Derrick Rose is a natural progression of an NBA team, allow me to correct you. Take a look at the twitter feed of @teamziller, who just witnessed his team's last game as the Sacramento Kings will almost assuredly move to Anaheim in the offseason. Or read Canis Hoopus' year-end post on the dreadful state of the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team so god-awful that its fans have resorted to viewing it as a sitcom simply to dull the pain of their fanhood.
No, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Tom Thibodeau, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and every other member of this year's team should be enjoyed because there is a certain special feeling surrounding this team that simply does not come around very often. That is not to say that a championship is imminent, although that dream is both possible and fist-pumpingly awesome to consider, but it is worth taking a moment to appreciate that this is one of those rare times in sports that something so out of one's control actually rewards your personal investment.
The Bulls beat the Nets using Thibodeau's most extended rotation of the season. Even Luol Deng, 4th in the NBA in minutes per game, managed to play a reasonable 31 minutes. Joakim Noah, he of the recovering sprained ankle, came out with that Noah-like energy that makes him so likeable, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds (including seven on offense) and four blocks before banging knees with Nets center Brook Lopez. Kyle Korver scored 19 points including 10 in the fourth quarter and provided the scoring the Bulls needed with Rose and Deng sitting out late in the contest.Taj Gibson continued his stellar late-season play with nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
The Nets took advantage of the Bulls' reserves on the second night of a back-to-back and led by a point with one minute to play, but Rasual Butler hit a corner three to retake the lead and Chicago never looked back. The conversation now turns to the playoffs, which will be covered in earnest in the days ahead. But as the regular season concludes, here are a few of the incredible notes from Chicago's brilliant 2010-2011 season:
- The Bulls finish 62-20, tying the record of the Jordan/Pippen 1997-1998 team that won the NBA championship.
- Chicago won 21 of its last 23 games and was a league-best 24-4 after the All-Star break.
- With the win and San Antonio's loss versus the Suns, the Bulls claim the best record in the NBA for the fourth time in franchise history. The past three times, 1992, 1996 and 1997, Chicago won the NBA championship.
- Chicago is 28-1 all-time in playoff series where they control the home court. The only loss was against the Washington Wizards in the 2005 playoffs.
- Tom Thibodeau ties Paul Westphal for the most wins ever in a season for a rookie head coach with 62.
- The Bulls finished the season on a nine-game winning streak, their longest since 2005. It is the team's best finish in franchise history, besting the 1981 team's eight in a row.
- Final notable season averages - Derrick Rose: 25 points, 7.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds; Luol Deng: 17.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists; Carlos Boozer: 59 games, 17.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists; Joakim Noah: 48 games, 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks.
Finally, what better way to leave the regular season that letting Bulls' leader Derrick Rose sum things up:
"Playoffs. It was a good season, a great season. But, playoffs."