His right foot has bothered him since Game 2 of the Boston series.
Now he has left knee tendonitis, which seems to bother him more than his foot injury.
But Kyrie Irving is not going to sit down.
Irving is not driving as much, not finishing when he does, and has shot 5-of-23 in his last two game. He’s not the same guy, which has put a heavier load on LeBron James. But Irving told Dave McMenamin of ESPN he will play Tuesday in a crucial Game 5 against Chicago, with the series knotted up at 2-2.
“If the consideration is now, then, I mean, I should have been sitting out maybe about four games ago,” Irving said. “I just … I can’t do it. Mentally, I can’t do it. I can’t look myself in the mirror and sit on the bench or sit in the locker room while I watch my teammates go out there.
“I’d rather give 30 percent, 40 percent, rather than give none at all. I just literally can’t do it. I can’t sit on the bench and be hurt and be OK with that. And still, I still know I can be effective. So whether I got to the free throw line eight times [like he did in Game 3, going 8-for-8], which I’m still happy about … My jumper may not be falling or the legs under me, but I’m just going to continue to just go.”
Less Irving means more LeBron having to carry the load and do it himself — he used 42.8 percent of the Cavaliers possessions when he was on the floor and only three of his 10 made baskets came off an assist. Those kinds of numbers play right into Tom Thibodeau’s defense; it’s designed to stop isolation sets. LeBron hasn’t been efficient this series, and he’s not going to be with the defense focused on him.
Irving needs to give the Cavaliers something. So does J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, and others. Chicago’s offense hasn’t been pretty most of the time, but it’s getting up enough points to make this a series (especially thanks to Derrick Rose of late). Cleveland needs to find points that do not just come via LeBron.
The question is can Irving provide that right now?