(Reuters) - Chicago and Miami opened the National Basketball Association post-season with comfortable wins on Saturday but the Bulls paid a steep price for their victory when Derrick Rose was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
There were smiles all around in Miami as the Heat, led by 32 points from LeBron James, scorched the New York Knicks 100-67 in the opening game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.
But few were smiling in Chicago after watching Rose crumple to the floor in pain late in the Bulls’ 103-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Meanwhile, the favored Oklahoma City Thunder needed Kevin Durant’s last-second shot to defeat the reigning champion Dallas Mavericks 99-98 in the West, and the Orlando Magic opened their Eastern series with an 81-77 triumph over the Indiana Pacers.
Two hours after the game ended, the Bulls said the All-Star guard’s season was over because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Rose missed 27 games this season because of various injuries and there had been concerns about his fitness coming into the playoffs.
He eased some of that concern as he scored a game-high 23 points while adding nine rebounds and nine assists but the health of the league’s most valuable player was again at the forefront of conversation when he landed awkwardly on his left leg and crashed to the ground late in the game.
Medical staff rushed onto the court and examined Rose for several minutes before he was helped to the locker room.
Afterwards, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was questioned on why Rose was even in the game with two minutes to play and Chicago holding a double-digit lead.
”I do not work backward like you guys,“ Thibodeau told reporters. ”The score was going the other way. He’s got to play.
“Derrick has to work on finishing, on closing. Our team did not handle that part great. That’s what I was thinking.”
With the injury, Rose became the fifth player from USA Basketball’s preliminary 20 man roster who will miss the London Olympics.
Rose, Orlando’s Dwight Howard (back), Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chauncey Billups (Achilles) are out due to injury, while Dallas’ Lamar Odom has been dropped from consideration after being deactivated by the Mavericks.
USA Basketball officials have said they will not seek replacements.
Rose’s injury took away from a bright start to the post-season for the top-seeded Bulls, who also received a 19-point contribution from Richard Hamilton while Luol Deng chipped in with 17 and Joakim Noah added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Elton Brand led the eighth-seeded 76ers with 19 points.
Game Two of the best-of-seven series is set for Tuesday, also in Chicago.
There was little drama in South Beach as the Heat began their title chase in impressive style.
After a close opening quarter, the Heat took charge in the second by outscoring the Knicks 30-13, James going on a 9-0 run to send Miami into the intermission with a commanding 54-31 advantage.
Dwyane Wade contributed 19 points to the win while the other member of Miami’s ‘Big Three’, Chris Bosh, had nine points and six rebounds.
J.R. Smith had 17 points off the bench for the Knicks while Carmelo Anthony had 11 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert tore his left anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in the third quarter and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight months after surgery.
At Oklahoma City, a struggling Durant delivered when it counted, scoring on a jumper that bounced off the rim and the backboard before settling into the net.
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder, who trailed much of the game, with 28 points and Durant had 25.
Dirk Nowitzki had put Dallas ahead 98-97 with two free throws with nine seconds to play. He scored 11 of his 25 points in the final 4:22.
The team meet again in Oklahoma on Monday.
At Indianapolis, Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson each scored 17 points to guide the sixth seeded Magic past the Pacers.
Glen Davis played a big role as well, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds as Orlando’s replacement center for Dwight Howard, who is lost for the season following back surgery.
Game Two is in Indianapolis on Monday.
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes