OAKLAND, Calif. – The Cleveland Cavaliers finished off Chicago and swept past Atlanta, even when Kyrie Irving wasn’t available.
Now they have to find their way past the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals without him.
Irving has a fractured left kneecap and will have surgery that could sideline him for 3-4 months, the Cavaliers said Friday.
Already without Kevin Love, the Cavaliers are now without their All-Star point guard, who had been playing in pain for most of the postseason and was injured again in the final minutes of Game 1 on Thursday night.
“As far as how we prepare, we’ve been through this. We’ve played games without Kevin, without Kyrie,” coach David Blatt said Friday, before the team announced Irving’s diagnosis. “We know how we want to play when they’re not in there. From that standpoint, we can prepare. Our main concern right now though is just Kyrie’s health. That’s all.”
The Cavaliers said an MRI exam at Stanford Sports Medicine Clinic revealed the injury and that surgery will be performed at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Saddened by the way I had to go out but it doesn’t take away from being (a part) of a special playoff run with my brothers,” Irving wrote in a Twitter posting. “Truly means a lot for all the support and love. I Gave it everything I had and have no regrets. I love this game no matter what and I’ll be back soon.”
Irving limped off the court during overtime of Cleveland’s 108-100 loss on Thursday and left the arena on crutches. He has been bothered by foot and then knee pain for most of his first postseason, sitting out the second half of the series-clinching victory over Chicago in the second round.
He then missed two games during the Eastern Conference finals, but played well Thursday, finishing with 23 points before leaving with two minutes left in OT.
Matthew Dellavedova stepped in during Irving’s absence in the last round but played only nine scoreless minutes on Thursday.
LeBron James said the Cavs would be prepared no matter who was available.
“Well, there are a few things that you would love to have going late in the season,” he said. “That’s being healthy, having a great rhythm, and then you need a little luck as well. We’ve had a great rhythm. We haven’t had much luck, and we haven’t been healthy. But I haven’t gotten discouraged.”
The Cavs have battled injuries throughout James’ first season back in Cleveland. Starting forward Anderson Varejao was lost to a ruptured left Achilles tendon months ago, then Love’s dislocated left shoulder came as the Cavs were finishing a first-round sweep of Boston.
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