The Chicago Bulls looked to make a statement in the Staples Center early in the game, on Christmas Day, against Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the L.A. Lakers after an extra-long off-season.

The Bulls took advantage of the absence of Andrew Bynum and their offense allowed them to cruise to a 56-49 lead at the end of the first half.

However, in the third quarter, the Lakers’ defense held the Bulls to 12 points and reclaimed the lead.  The Bulls were taking poor, contested jump-shots as the Lakers extended to a 82-71 lead with only 3:44 remaining in the game.

That’s when the Lakers started to miss free-throws which allowed Chicago to get back in the game.

Trailing 87-81, Luol Deng missed a three-pointer, got his own rebound and put in an and-one lay-up to draw the Bulls within three.  Then, on the ensuing Lakers’ possession, Deng grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled (on a very questionable call) and awarded two free-throw attempts at the charity line – trimming the Lakers’ lead down to 87-86.

Then… this happened:

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It looked as though Deng traveled after getting the steal upon stealing the errant pass by a trapped Kobe Bryant.  But, nevertheless, the Bulls managed to climb their way back to an 88-87 victory after Deng blocked Kobe Bryant’s last attempt to save the game for the Lakers.

The Bulls may have under-performed, but it’s nice to have NBA basketball back – and even nicer to claim a win on Christmas Day.

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