The 2011-2012 NBA season was almost a season that never was. The lockout shortened season reduced the number of games from 82 to 66 and opened on Christmas day. Christmas day featured the defending champion Dallas Mavericks get blown out at home by 30+ by the Miami Heat that proved to be an indication of what kind of season Dallas was in store for.
Fresh off the 2011 NBA Championship the Dallas Mavericks started the season missing the pieces that helped make them champions. Mark Cuban opted not to resign Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea and other key role players, instead holding out for the prized 2012 free agents. The Mavs dealt a draft pick to the Lakers for Lamar Odom which everyone thought would be a steal for the Mavericks. Lamar Odom turned out to be a dissapointment as he was never able to get over leaving the Lakers and was eventually turned away by the Mavericks in april. Dallas stumbled out of the gate, starting the season 0-3 highlighted by 2 straight blow-outs to begin the season. Dirk and the rest of the team struggled to regain their hunger and focus that won them the championship the season before. As a result it turned out to be a very inconsistent season finishing 36-30 earning them the seventh seed in the west. The Mavs faced off with the OKC thunder in the first round, a team they had beat in 5 games in 2011 to reach the finals. Eager to erase the pain of being so close to the finals, the Thunder took it to the Mavs on their way to a 4-0 sweep of the Champs. Going into the off-season Dirk and the Mavs have a lot of work to do if they want to stay competitive for Dirks final years as he approaches the age 34. Mark Cuban has his eyes set on Deron Williams AND Dwight Howard. It remains to be seen if Mark Cuban will be able to create his own “Big 3″ in Dallas.
The Chicago Bulls finished number 1 in the East for the second year in a row behind Rose on their way to a 50-16 record. Chicago has a great season in 2011 on their way to 60 wins before losing four straight against the Miami Heat. Experts picked Chicago all season long to come out of the east thinking that the Bulls would be able to fall back on the experience of 2011 and get out of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls added veteran guard Richard Hamilton in the off-season thinking he would fit perfectly with Rose in the back court with his solid mid-range jumper. Hamilton and Rose battled injuries all season long, and resulted in the Bulls having to nearly change their line-up on a nightly basis. While it built the depth of the team it still was a worry if the Bulls could remain healthy. Chicago started the play-offs matched up with Philadelphia in the first round, in a series the 76ers wanted. With 2 minutes left in game 1 and the Bulls on their way to a win, Rose drove to the basket and tore his MCL. With Rose now out for the remainder of the play-offs the dynamic quickly changed in the East. Philadelphia took care of the Bulls in six games in a dissapointing ending to a promising season for the Bulls. Rose and the Bulls will look to re-group and get healthy as they enter the 2012-2012 NBA season.
The “old” San Antonio Spurs finished the season on a 10 game winning streak with a 50-16 record, good for the number 1 seed again in the West. San Antonio re-aquired Stephen Jackson during the season and Boris Diaw with gave them a much needed boost. Ginoboli and Duncan were the healthiest they had been in recent seasons and Parker was in the midst of his greatest season in his 11 year career. The Spurs looked lke a team poised to win their 5th NBA championship since 1999. The Spurs swept the Utah Jazz in the first round followed by another sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers in their second round. Going into the conference finals the Spurs were riding high on a 18 game winning streak with many experts calling them team “unbeatable”. San Antonio faced off with the OKC thunder in the conference finals and won the first 2 games at home extending their franchise winning streak to a stunning 20 games. The Spurs had been in this same position before back in 2004. Back in 2004 the Spurs were riding a 17 game winning streak and were up 2-0 on the Lakers in the second round before they shockingly lost the last 4 games of the series to end their season. This season OKC won the last 4 games of their series against the Spurs to once again surprisingly end their incredible season.