Kyrie Irving played the first 3:05 of the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, then went to the bench for the night. Tendonitis in his left knee has hobbled the All-Star guard to the point the Cavaliers were better with Matthew Dellavedova on the court.
But Irving plans to play in Game 2 Friday. From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com.
“Right now, I’m pretty confident I’ll go,” Irving said after the game, visibly frustrated by his injuries affecting yet another one of his postseason performances.
That attitude shouldn’t be a surprise, this is the guy who last week said:
“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.”
The concerning thing is that Irving had almost a week off from the time the Cavaliers eliminated the Bulls to this Game 1, a week he spent getting rehab on his sore right foot and tender left knee. It didn’t help much, and coach David Blatt suggested Irving may have aggravated the knee during the game.
It showed on the court. Irving was not much help defensively in Game 1 and lacked the explosiveness that characterizes his game.
“The most frustrating point is seeing holes in the defense that I’m used to attacking,” Irving said. “I tried to make one move and accelerated and then I stopped and I passed it to Mozzy [Timofey Mozgov]. Mozzy missed the shot, and I came right out in the third quarter.”
He can still help the Cavaliers on the court with his shooting — he was 2-of-3 from three — but not much else. Still, he will start because he earned it
Still, he will start Game 2 because he earned it — and if the Hawks are smart they will attack him with Jeff Teague off the dribble. LeBron James needs some support in this series, and he got it in Game 1 from J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson. Enough to get the Cavaliers the win.
He’ll try, but Cleveland can’t count on that support coming from Irving this series.