Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals was proceeding exactly as planned for the Chicago Bulls.
The East's top seed was dominating overmatched Philadelphia but with 70 seconds remaining, the storyline suddenly changed.
Reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose, who fought through a litany of injuries during the regular season, had to be helped off the court after driving to a jump- stop in the lane and throwing a pass out to the right during the Bulls' 103-91 victory.
What had been a party atmosphere at the Madhouse on Madison turned into a library. The crowd was stunned and silent, fearing the worst. In her postgame report, TNT's Cheryl Miller said: "I've never been in a packed arena where the top player went down, and the arena went silent. It was eerie."
The Bulls confirmed the fans' worst fears with a short press release revealing that Rose had indeed torn his anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
With Game 2 scheduled for tonight in the Second City, Chicago will try to press on minus the superstar, who also missed 27 games during the regular season, but had shown signs of regaining his dynamic form against the Sixers on Saturday, nearly putting up a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau defended leaving Rose on the floor so late in a rout by noting that his team's lead was going the wrong way -- the Sixers had cut a 20-point deficit in half in about 3 1/2 minutes and it was at 12 when Rose was hurt.
Thibodeau, who waited until after the 8:00 mark to sub Rose into the game in the fourth quarter, said he wanted his star guard to work on closing games. Injuries, the coach said, are just something that happens.
"It's part of the game. There are going to be injuries. A guy could get hurt in practice, a guy could get hurt in the first five minutes of the game, he can get hurt at the end of the game. He can get hurt any time, and you've got to deal with it," Thibodeau said.
Sixers coach Doug Collins, despite his team's improved chances with Rose out of the series, didn't relish the fact.
"I admire him so much," said Collins. "He's one of the bright lights in the NBA."
Richard Hamilton scored 19 points, Luol Deng had 17 and Joakim Noah added 12 points and 13 rebounds in Game 1 for the Bulls, who also had the No. 1 overall seed last year before being eliminated by the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
Elton Brand had 19 points and seven rebounds to lead the Sixers. Jrue Holiday scored 16, Thaddeus Young added 13 and Evan Turner had 12 points for Philadelphia, which still figures to struggle against the a Bulls team that must now run the gauntlet through the rest of the playoffs without one of the league's best players.
"He's the MVP of the NBA," Noah said of Rose. "So it's tough, but there's basketball to be played."
Chicago did have success in the regular season without Rose, going 18-9 without the superstar as backups C.J. Watson and John Lucas both stepped up at times. In fact, Watson scored 20 points on two occasions against the Sixers in the regular season.
"[Rose has] had a lot of injuries this year. It's been unfortunate, but we do have more than enough to win with, Thibodeau said. "Whatever the circumstances are, we'll deal with it."
These two rivals have met in the East semifinals twice in back-to-back years (1990 and '91) during the Michael Jordan-era with Chicago taking both sets 4-1.