Derrick Rose watched as his Chicago Bulls played three of the most physical NBA games of the season, falling twice to the Miami Heat in the past two tries. It's officially now or never if he plans to return.
The most likely scenario for Rose this late in the season would be for him to ride out the rest of the way on the bench and formally announce that he won't be miraculously suiting up in the middle of the playoffs to lead the Bulls' last stand.
However, we're stuck in some sort of weird limbo: Rose hasn't played a single game all season long, yet he's not ruling himself out for a potential return.
We've sat through an endless number of "Not today" and "We'll see" quotes from both Tom Thibodeau and Rose, leaving the door open for a possible return, even though the stakes seem to remain stacked against him.
With all the wishy-washy quotes, and the obvious desire to return accompanied by extreme uncertainty, it's easy to get frustrated with the entire scenario.
A good two-thirds of the talk surrounding Chicago since the All-Star break has been about Rose, when he'll return, how good he'll be and how long it would take him to get back to his old self.
So we waited and talked, and then we talked and waited, and finally here we are, sitting at what seems to be the very last possible moment for Rose to actually return to play, at least as far as this series is concerned.
Throughout Game 3, the Bulls played just six players more than 20 minutes. Even worse, Nate Robinson played 42 minutes while Marco Belinelli logged 43, their starting backcourt sitting for a combined 11 minutes.
If ever there was a time that the Bulls needed Rose, it's right now, with Kirk Hinrich still unable to play and Marquis Teague actually seeing the floor for a few minutes every game.
The most likely return scenario for Rose was Game 3, the first home playoff game for Chicago in the second round. But news broke slightly before tipoff that he wasn't playing.
BREAKING: Derrick Rose is out for Game 3 tonight. Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich are also both out.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 10, 2013
What sense would it make for Rose to come back on the road in Miami when he would be best served giving the team a huge burst from the hometown fans with a constant eruption of noise?
Chicago has played chicken with Rose for nearly half the season now, and the Bulls are right at the point where they are going to smash into each other if they wait another second to move.
Game 4 has to be the last chance that we'll see Rose on the floor this season, especially if the Bulls end up losing.
A comeback for the potential elimination game would be something to see, but coming back on the road doesn't seem to be the best possible scenario for a return, especially if they were to go out and get embarrassed like they did in their last game at Miami.
Rose will likely not return at all now that we've come this far, but a betting man would be wise to go with Game 4 as the most likely scenario remaining.
Of course, if Chicago were to extend the series to a sixth game, perhaps he could make his triumphant return at that point.