Just when Derrick Rose was on the brink of alleviating fears that he would be unable to fully recover from a nagging ankle injury, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, making an impressive playoff victory over the Sixers seem more like a loss and all-but dashing the Bulls NBA Championship hopes.
Rose landed awkwardly after a jump stop and fell to the floor with 80 seconds left in Saturday's 103-91 win over the Sixers in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoffs series at the United Center. The team later announced that Rose had torn his ACL and will miss the remainder of the postseason. It's the sixth different injury Rose has sustained this season.
"It's the saddest win," Kyle Korver said. "But we have to pick ourselves up. We've played a lot of games without him. Maybe it was just getting us ready for this."
Rose sat out the regular season finale and has played in only five games in the past six weeks because of a nagging right ankle injury. After shaking off a slow-shooting start in which he missed six of his first seven, he looked anything but rusty in finishing with 23 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in 37 minutes, 13 seconds.
Sixers coach Doug Collins waved for Bulls athletic trainers onto the floor after Rose went down near the baseline late in the game as frenzied sellout crowd fell silent. Rose was writhing in pain and clutching his left knee before being helped off the court and into the locker room by trainer Fred Tedeschi and assistant trainer Jeff Tanaka.
He was later taken to Rush University Medical Center where a MRI revealed the ACL tear. Rose was told his recovery could take as long as eight months, according to a source familiar with the situation, which means he may not be able to return to the Bulls until January.
Players were subdued in the locker room after the game awaiting news of the severity of Rose's injury. Their fears were realized a few hours later when the team released a statement.
C.J. Watson will start in Tuesday's Game 2. While the Bulls are 18-9 without Rose this season, including a 89-80 win over the Sixers on March 17. Although the Bulls beat Miami without Rose and with him playing his worst game as a pro, advancing past the Heat be a tall order without their best player.
"I know how bad he wants to be out there," Joakim Noah said. "Regardless of what happens, we're a capable group. We've been through this throughout the year. We can play ball without Derrick as well."
Bulls players defended Thibodeau's decision to have Rose remain in the game late in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia had cut a 20-point lead to 12 when he was injured.
"I don't work backward like you guys do," Thibodeau said when asked by Rose remained in the game. "The score was going the other way. He's got to play."
Rip Hamilton added 19 points on 6 of 7 shooting while Luol Deng had 17 points and six rebounds. Joakim Noah added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who outrebounded the Sixers 47-38 and had 11 more second-chance points.
Korver helped the Bulls pull away in the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points. Elton Brand led the Sixers with 19 points.
Rose missed 27 games this season with toe, back, groin, ankle and foot injuries, which is 21 more games than he missed in his first three seasons combined.
"It sucks because he was just getting back," Taj Gibson said. "He looked good in practice yesterday and he was looking good in the game offensively and defensively. It was good to have our leader back."