Reigning MVP Derrick Rose will miss the rest of the NBA playoffs after suffering a torn left knee ligament in the final seconds of the Chicago Bulls' first-round series opener against Philadelphia.
Rose, who had missed 27 games this season with various injuries, scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while adding nine assists for the Bulls in their 103-91 home triumph to start the Eastern Conference best-of-seven clash with the 76ers.
But any joy for Chicago was short lived as the club revealed champion point guard Rose had torn an anterior cruciate ligament.
Rose was injured with just 80 seconds remaining and coach Tom Thibodeau was forced to defend his decision to keep Rose on court so late in the game, saying the Bulls had been struggling to finish off the 76ers even with leads of between 15 and 20 points.
"I don't work backwards like you guys. The score was going the other way," Thibodeau said.
"We weren't closing the game out the right way.
"A guy can get hurt any time. You have to deal with it. It's part of the game.
"Whatever the circumstances are we will deal with it."
Rose was injured when he landed hard as he planted for a jump shot and his left knee buckled.
Grimacing as he grabbed his left knee, Rose lay on the court while being examined by a trainer until he was helped up and aided to the locker room.
"I just feel bad for him," Bulls teammate Carlos Boozer said.
"He has been through so much this season. The kid can't catch a break."
Fans briefly chanted "M-V-P" as Rose got up from the court but most of the crowd was shocked.
"At first it's kind of scary for everybody, not just us, the whole city of Chicago," Bulls starter Richard Hamilton said.
Hamilton backed Thibodeau's decision to keep Rose on the court in the final minutes.
"Philly was making a run," Hamilton said.
"In playoff basketball, you never want to give a team confidence. If you have a team down, you have to try to keep them down and keep the starters in the game after they made a little run."
Rose, who was 9-of-23 from the field, missed 12 games through a groin injury and five games each for back, toe and ankle problems.
The Bulls went 18-9 without him and 32-7 with him in the line-up and that time with Rose sidelined has allowed the rest of the roster to have faith in those who would take his place now.
Rose had missed only three games in six years until this season.
The Bulls, who won 50 regular-season games to claim a home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs, will host the 76ers in game two of the series on Tuesday.
Hamilton added 19 points for Chicago while Britain's Luol Deng contributed 17 points and Joakim Noah added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Former Bull Elton Brand led the 76ers with 19 points.
In another Eastern Conference opener, hosts Miami routed the New York Knicks 100-67 behind 32 points from LeBron James. The Knicks had 27 turnovers and matched their lowest one-game points total in playoff history.