Can Bulls win East without Rose?

The Bulls might have just watched their title hopes limp off the court with Rose. Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- And it was going so nicely, too. The Bulls' first unit was playing like it had been together for 66 games. The offense was crisp, efficient and egalitarian. Derrick Rose didn't look quite 100 percent, but he had plenty of explosiveness to get where he needed to go on the court. Richard Hamilton came off screens, swung the ball to the weak side, ran the floor and scored 19 points on just seven shots. He and Rose looked like they'd shared a backcourt for years. The first unit that had looked so rusty and fractured during the month of April?

Forget about it. This team wasn't missing a beat.

When Rose knocked down a 28-footer with 6:07 left, it put the Bulls up by 20 points. Game, set and match. Both teams went on cruise control, yet Rose was still on the court. He needed one rebound and one assist for a triple-double, the only apparent bit of intrigue remaining in the contest. Luol Deng put the ball on the floor and sank a floater. The score was 97-81 and the Sixers called timeout. Just 2 minutes and 52 seconds remained on the clock. Time to clear the bench. Give rookie Jimmy Butler some run. John Lucas III, who has come up big so often for the Bulls this season, hadn't gotten in, and it would be nice to see him finish up in Rose's spot.

Tom Thibodeau did substitute during that timeout. He reinserted starter Carlos Boozer. Less than two minutes later, with the score 99-87, the Bulls' championship hopes went down in a crumpled heap when Rose jumped, and his knee did not.