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Irving's latest knee injury casts pall over NBA Finals

Cavs guard set for MRI; status for Sunday's Game 2 uncertain

POSTED: Jun 5, 2015 10:59 AM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner

NBA.com

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GameTime: Irving on Injury

Kyrie Irving talks postgame about his injury and Grant, Shaq and Kenny discuss what it means for the Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving limped up the ramp at Oracle Arena that leads from the court, behind one basket, up to the visitors' dressing room. Angry, distraught, frustrated -- take your pick. He peeled off his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, balled it up in one fist and threw it to the concrete.

Then he yelled out -- loudly! -- a one-word expletive that captured his mood, the moment and the fear of many that this potentially excellent 2015 NBA Finals might be over even as it was getting started.

A few minutes later, Irving -- the Cavaliers' point guard who had played so effectively through four quarters, only to re-injure his already ailing left knee in overtime -- came out of the shower area. He was worse off than before, holding himself up by the dressing stall as he lurched toward his. He spoke with reporters for about four minutes, then limped into the trainers' room.

David Griffin, the Cleveland GM, had poked his head out of the locker room in search of Irving's father, Drederick, and his agent, Jeff Wechsler. Both of them wound up in the trainers' room too while Irving's teammates dressed, spoke to reporters and veered as much as possible around the elephant in that other room.

Drederick Irving came out of the trainers' room and shut the door with force, a stern expression on his face. Irving eventually came out as well, got dressed and sat head in hands for a long moment. His spirits picked up when he finally left the dressing room to visit with family and friends beneath the Oracle stands. He even, yes, smiled and laughed a bit in their company.

He was on crutches by then.

The Cavaliers announced that Irving, who had been battling knee and foot injuries since Game 2 of the first round, would undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Friday and continue to be evaluated by the team's medical staff.

What I felt obviously didn't feel right. It was a little bit different than what I had been experiencing in the Chicago series and then in practices. This was a quick pinch.

– Kyrie Irving

He had begun the night amid questions over the health of his left knee, diagnosed by the Cavaliers' doctors and verified by noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews during the Eastern Conference semifinals series against Atlanta. With eight days of rest and treatment prior to Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday, Irving seemed likely to be at his best -- or rather, to be as healthy as anyone had seen him in weeks.

And in fact, he was. Irving played both offensively and defensively like a player reborn. Seizing the opportunity, riding the adrenaline of his first Finals, Irving through four quarters at least had matched the league's MVP, Golden State guard Stephen Curry, in impact. He had 23 points to Curry's 22, with seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks, including a game-saver when he chased Curry on a drive to the basket and -- from behind, LeBron-like -- swatted his layup attempt off the glass.

Those five extra minutes, though, may have forever altered this championship series.

Actually, there was a little more than two minutes left in OT and things already had turned miserable for the Cavaliers. Golden State scored the first four points and was on its way to a 10-2 advantage in the period when Irving tried to put a move on Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

It backfired. He appeared to slip, his left leg taking his full weight awkwardly while his right went that-a-way.

"I tried to decelerate," Irving said. "To try to go by Klay. What I felt obviously didn't feel right. It was a little bit different than what I had been experiencing in the Chicago series and then in practices. This was a quick pinch. I could still feel what was going on in my knee. This time I kinda knew it was, uh, a little bit different from the other times."

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And not in a good way.

"Obviously you can see in the tone of my voice I'm a little worried," he said. "It's just a natural reaction. ... I hope it's just a re-aggravation of what was originally going on. I mean, it's a little disappointing and frustrating 'cause, just coming in, I felt amazing."

Even in a best-case diagnosis now, Irving likely won't feel amazing anytime soon. The eight-day layoffs are over. Game 2 is Sunday, with Games 3 and 4 coming Tuesday and Thursday in Cleveland.

It took LeBron James scoring 44 points and Irving having his healthiest and best all-around performance since the Cavs' opener against Boston for Cleveland just to stay even through 48 minutes.

Now with Irving suffering at least a setback, on top of Kevin Love's absence, well, the sun will come up Friday at some point but it might not be shining on Cleveland.

"It was very tough to see," James said. "I just see how hard he worked these last eight days just to get himself to play at this level tonight. Seeing him walk out of the locker room on crutches just now, that's a tough blow for our team."

Said Warriors coach Steve Kerr: "It's something I hate to see. I never like to see anybody get injured on either team. ... I hope he can play. I mean that -- you probably don't believe me but I mean that. This is the dream of every player, to come to the NBA Finals and perform and compete. So I hope he's OK."

Uncertainty leading up to Game 1, crutches after it and an MRI waiting in the morning. That's not part of any dream Irving -- or the rest of the Cavaliers -- had for this series.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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