Kyrie Irving says he’ll play in Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals vs. Hawks

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Kyrie Irving will play and start in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks on Wednesday, he told reporters at Mondays practice.

Irving tweaked his left knee in the Cavaliers’ Game 6 win over the Bulls, and was held out of the rest of the contest after the injury took place. He did say, however, that he would have been able to return had the game been closer.

Irving was held out of Saturday’s practice as a precaution, but he will be ready to go Wednesday night.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

“I’m going to go,” Irving said of Wednesday’s Game 1 in Atlanta.

It’s been four days since Irving aggravated his left leg in the Cavs’ closeout win over Chicago, limiting him to just 12 minutes overall, including keeping him sidelined for the entire second half. The All-Star point guard consulted with team doctors Friday and sat out Cleveland’s practice on Saturday to rest, but reported marked improvement since the Bulls series.

“I would say just my spirits and mental confidence, just being able to actually feel both my feet underneath me, especially when I’m shooting, it feels amazing,” Irving said. “You know, just a confidence of getting extra work in and just preparing with my teammates. I think that’s the biggest thing I get out of it. I don’t want to be on the sideline at all, especially preparing for a big stage like this. I want to be as close to 100 percent before Wednesday as I can be, so just doing the necessary things in order to do that.”

Cavaliers head coach David Blatt remained outwardly cautious, and would only say he’s encouraged by Irving’s progress. But Irving has been playing hurt for much of the postseason, and especially with six days between games, it’s no surprise that he’ll be in the starting lineup for this one.