Tom Thibodeau defends decision

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls players came to the defense of their head coach Saturday when asked if Tom Thibodeau should have had Derrick Rose on the court at the time he tore his left ACL late in their playoff-opening 103-91 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Sixers had whittled a 20-point deficit to 12 when Rose jump-stopped and elevated. He grabbed his left knee as he landed with 1:22 left and the Bulls leading 99-87. Rose writhed in pain before being helped off the court. The reigning MVP underwent an MRI that revealed a season-ending torn ACL.

"Philly was making a run, and in playoff basketball, you never want to give a team confidence," Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "So if it's having your starters in when you've got a team down, you've got to try to keep them down. You can't let them back in the game or make a little run, so we needed guys out there who could put the ball in the basket."

Rose's injury status has been a season-long storyline for the Bulls. He missed 27 games -- during which the Bulls went 18-9 -- with a variety of injuries, from turf toe, to back spasms, to a pulled groin, to a foot injury.

Even Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in February that he sometimes wonders if Rose should be in the game.

"I'm one of those people who watches and thinks, 'Why don't you get him out of the game?' " Reinsdorf told ESPNChicago.com's Melissa Isaacson. "When Michael (Jordan) was still in the game and he would be in at the end of big wins, I'd say, 'Phil (Jackson), why don't you take him out?' And Phil would say, 'When I was with the Knicks, an opponent once scored 23 straight points against us at the end of a game to win.'

"With Phil, he just wouldn't listen. He just kept bringing up that same game."

The subject has not been Thibodeau's favorite this season, and he was asked about it again Saturday.

"I don't work backwards like you guys do," he said. "The score was going the other way.

"He's got to play, and the thing is, we sat him 'till (the 7:52) mark of the fourth and he's got to work on closing, he's got to work on finishing. Our team, we didn't handle that part great. That was what I was thinking."

Bulls forward Luol Deng, who's battling a torn wrist tendon that at some point will require surgery, wasn't sure why the subject surfaced Saturday.

"I don't know why you would question it," he said. "It's a playoff game. You're trying to play. You're trying to finish the game. Even though you're up, you're going to see them three more times. He's playing well and we want him to get his rhythm. I don't know why you'd question that."

Philadelphia coach Doug Collins also came to the defense of Thibodeau, who is the reigning coach of the year and a strong candidate to become the first coach ever to earn that honor in consecutive seasons.

"The one thing is, Tom Thibodeau is coach of the year," Collins said. "And he was last year and he is this year. He knows what he's doing coaching that team.

"Thibs is my buddy. I have the ultimate respect for him. From his standpoint, he wanted to finish that game the way he did. It's awful Derrick got hurt. When we play teams, I want to beat them at their best."

ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell and Melissa Isaacson contributed to this report.