The Chicago Bulls have just finished arguably their best regular season since 1996-97. For those keeping track, that was the season that the Bulls went on to win Michael Jordan‘s fifth NBA championship. In other words, the 2011-12 Bulls have been something special.

We have all endured the lockout, which drew out the off-season to uncomfortable levels, ultimately shortening the regular season to from 82 to 66 games. After all of that disruption, head coach Tom Thibodeau harnessed his men to a 50-16 record — good enough for the best record in the league. For those of you calculating at home, that gives them a .758 winning percentage; marginally better than last season’s .756.

How have the Bulls won so many games? The answer is multi-faceted.

However, a big part of the answer relates to defence. They have been the best rebounding team in the league, leading in both total rebounds and offensive rebounds (and second in defensive rebounds). They were third in blocked shots and committed the sixth least turnovers.

More than their own numbers however, the Bulls have done it through what they allowed opposing teams to put up. They allowed the least points per game (a stingy 88.2ppg), the least defensive rebounds, the third-least total rebounds, the second-least assists and the least three point baskets made and attempted. I could go on, but I won’t. 

As you can deduce, as a team, the Bulls are absolutely fantastic. On the other hand, every team is in one way or another the sum of its parts.

Saturday night, the Bulls entered the first round of the playoffs, ready to topple the Philadelphia 76ers on their way to a deserved date in the Finals. And game one went as planned — well, almost as planned. 

The Bulls pulled off a 103-91 victory, led by 23 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists from the outstanding Derrick Rose. But the story was not all smiles for Rose. In a horrific set of events, Rose came down awkwardly on a drive through the paint with approximately 90 seconds left in the game, ultimately rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament. 

Yes, you read right — the fairytale season is all but over for the Bulls. Fans in Chicago will likely need to get their hands on some promo codes for Fathead or perhaps even some coupon codes for FansEdge if they want to see life-size images of their star in flight, as Rose sits out with the injury that basketball players dread the most. 

Coach Thibodeau was self-righteous when questioned by media as to why he had Rose in the game, late during an apparent victory:

“I do not work backward like you guys. The score was going the other way. He’s got to play. Derrick has to work on finishing, on closing. Our team did not handle that part great. That’s what I was thinking.” 
— Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau on why Rose was in the game in the final two minutes with the Bulls holding a double-digit lead.

Of course, the question is a hollow one. A coach will always play his best players during the playoffs — particularly if he thinks there is any chance of the opposition getting back in the game. Thibodeau is not to blame. Injuries are a part of sports.

Meanwhile, as our good friends at Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie picked up, the adidas-branded Rose was goaded by a Nike designer that perhaps he was wearing the wrong shoes. I’m pretty sure that Rose isn’t interested at this point, but he can score some coupons for Nike if he needs to shore up his footwear for when he returns next season. That said, the Chicago star would be one of the last people looking into saving money using free Coupon Codes, given the $22.5m he has earnt in his career to date.

Remarkably, Rose ($6.9m) is behind Carlos Boozer ($13.5m), Luol Deng ($12.3m) and Joakim Noah ($12.0m) in 2011-12 earnings. He is yet to get that big payday, but it will surely be on its way next season when he signs a contract for MVP-like money. 

However, with the Playoffs underway in the here and now, it’s time for the likes of Boozer, Deng, Noah, Rip Hamilton and CJ Watson to step up and do their thing to get the Bulls over the top. Let’s not forget, despite the loss of 2010-11 NBA MVP Rose, this is a TEAM that has dominated to date, even throughout the 27 games that Rose missed this season. 

Will they step up? That is the question that the rest of the Eastern Conference will be waiting to have answered. The Philadelphia 76ers will hope to help them answer it in the negative.