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Bulls Sat Apr 28 2012
It was one of the rare instances when the final score is the least important part of a playoff game.
With 1:22 left, Saturday's NBA playoff opener was heading toward its expected conclusion, Chicago leading Philadelphia by 12, when Derrick Rose drove into the lane, jumped to a stop and leaped in pain. He came down clutching his left knee and crumpled to the floor.
As an unsettling silence fell over the United Center crowd, Rose was helped up and shuffled off to the locker room. The Bulls finished off a 103-91 victory, and within a few hours of the final horn, word came down that Rose had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. He will miss the rest of the playoffs and several months beyond that.
Here are the obligatory stats, though mentioning them at this point feels more like padding an obituary:
Before he went out, Rose led the game with 23 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. Across Chicago's starting five in fact, scoring was well-distributed, with four of the five starters getting into double figures (with Carlos Boozer just one point shy of making them a perfect 5 for 5) and 28 assists for the entire team. The Bulls shot 51% from the field and 42% from behind the arc, while their defense held Philly to a woeful 1-9 performance from their own three-point line.
As far as the boards, Joakim Noah opened the game with a ton of energy and seemingly gobbled up every rebound to put Philly in an early hole, though by game's end Chicago only out-rebounded their opponent 47-38.
But back to the battle Chicago finds itself in without Rose.
Kyle Korver said after the game that "We've played a lot of games this year without him. So maybe it was just getting us ready for this," but you really have to wonder if he believes that himself. I think the Bulls still have enough to get by Philly this round, though maybe not in four or five. But Boston? Miami? Those are much tougher mountains to climb, even with Rose, and without, well ... no offense to C.J. Watson and John Lucas, but it just doesn't seem possible.
Coach Tom Thibodeau was asked immediately following about having Rose in the game with so little time left and a 12-point lead, to which he responded by saying "the score was going the other way." I'm not sure the momentum had swung enough to warrant it, but regardless of that, I've never been one to judge coaches for letting their players play -- especially someone like Rose, who has missed lots of time this year and wanted to get into a postseason rhythm.
Obviously fans will have their own armchair opinions, as they're allowed to, but they'd better make sure they're yelling in support, not accusation, for Tuesday's Game 2. This team needs it now more than ever.