Bulls star Derrick Rose will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Rose was helped off the court late in Chicago's 103-91 playoff-opening victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, a staggering blow for a team eyeing a championship run.
He scored 23 points and was playing more like the league's reigning MVP after missing 27 games because of injuries during the regular season, but his season came to an end as the Bulls were wrapping up an impressive win.
Rose crumbled to the ground after he drove the lane with about 1:20 left and the Bulls leading by 12. He was going for a layup when he came to a jump-stop and seemed to change his mind as the 76ers' Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen rotated over, passing off to a teammate before an awkward landing.
Team medical personnel immediately rushed out and tended to Rose for several minutes as he was writhing in pain near the baseline before helping him to the locker room. Rose was taken to the hospital, where MRI results confirmed the Bulls' worst fears.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said he wasn't sure of the extent of the injury and was awaiting test results. Asked why he was still in the game, Thibodeau pointed out that the lead had shrunk from 20 midway through the fourth.
"I don't work backward like you guys do," Thibodeau said. "The score was going the other way."
Veteran guard Richard Hamilton defended the decision, saying, "Philly was making a run. In playoff basketball, you never want to give a team confidence. ... When you have a team down, you have to try to keep them down. They made a little run so we needed guys that could put the ball in the basket."
Losing Rose would obviously be a huge blow for a team that made the conference finals last season and captured the top overall seed for the second straight year.
He was finally playing more like the reigning MVP after missing 27 games during the regular season with various injuries and struggling down the stretch in the regular season.
He found his touch after a slow start in this game and also contributed nine rebounds and nine assists. Hamilton added 19 points, Luol Deng scored 17 and Joakim Noah (12 points, 13 rebounds) had a double-double for Chicago.
Elton Brand led Philadelphia with 19 points. Jrue Holiday scored 16, and Thaddeus Young had 13 points. Chicago product Evan Turner scored 12 and was booed mercilessly after acknowledging he thought the Miami Heat would be a tougher first-round matchup.
Well, he might want to reconsider that after this one.
The Bulls simply overwhelmed the Sixers and looked like a team gearing up for another big run after losing to Miami in the conference finals last season. They earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight year and sure looked like a championship contender in this one, right until the end.
Rose's injury sent a major chill through the arena. The Bulls were 18-9 without him this season, but they know they need their star if they're going to make a run at the title.
"Your heart goes out to him," Kyle Korver said. "It's been a hard year. With all the work that he puts in and the kind of person he is, to see this happen stinks. It's a sad win."
Rose hit just 1 of 7 shots in the first quarter but went on a tear late in the second as the Bulls took a 53-42 lead to the locker room. He then scored eight in the third and hit two 3-pointers to help Chicago stay in control, even though things did get a little heated.
That happened when Noah got fouled by Turner trying to put back Deng's miss with 4:36 left in the quarter. Hamilton started jawing with Turner. Rose and Brand got involved, too.
Fans, meanwhile, started chanting "MVP! MVP!" in a nod to the rivalry between Rose and Turner that dates to their high school days. When the dust cleared, Hamilton, Brand and Rose all got technicals, and Noah hit 1 of 2 foul shots to make it 69-55.
Hamilton added two more free throws on the next possession to boost the lead to 16. After the Sixers pulled within eight, Korver nailed a 3 to start a 12-2 run that stretched into the fourth and made it 84-66.