OAKLAND -– Kyrie Irving left the Cavaliers team hotel on crutches Friday morning en route for an MRI examination on his bothersome left knee.
The Cavaliers seemed more hopeful than optimistic that they will have their All-Star point guard on the floor for any remaining games in the NBA Finals against the Warriors.
Irving missed two games in the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks after he was diagnosed with tendinitis. Cleveland won both games, but the task gets a lot more difficult against the NBA’s best team. The initial evaluation after Game 1 was that Irving had no damage to his ACL or MCL, Irving said after Thursday's game. It is not known whether if there is any damage to his patella.
“First of all, we're all hoping that Kyrie is healthy,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said on Friday. “As far as how we prepare, we've been through this. We've played games without Kevin (Love), without Kyrie. 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.”
Irving provided remarkable production for a player whose physical condition has been tenuous for most of the playoffs. He logged 44 minutes in the Warriors’ 108-100 overtime victory. Irving finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocked shots. He limped off the floor with two minutes remaining in overtime after buckling to the ground after trying to make a move on Klay Thompson.
Backup guard Matthew Dellavedova, an undrafted second-year player from Saint Mary’s, played just nine minutes and did not take a shot. Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at Oracle Arena.
“It was such a short window in overtime they played without him,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “We really didn’t get a good feel for the adjustments they would make. And we’re probably going to prepare for Game 2 as if he’s going to play, until we hear otherwise. And then we obviously have some film we study from the last series. We’ll be prepared either way.”
Dellavedova started two games in the series against the Hawks and averaged 9.5 points.
“You all saw he played terrifically,” Blatt said. “Matty has been a rotation player for us the whole year. He stepped in and did a great job, and the team believes in him and we believe in him. If necessary, he has to play significant minutes again, he'll be ready, and we'll know how to play with him.”
Said Dellavedova, “It was great experience for me, having to play more minutes and a bigger role. If needed, I’ll draw on that experience.”
Although Dellavedova has drawn the assignments of guarding All-Star guards Derrick Rose of the Bulls and the Hawks' Jeff Teague in the playoffs, the task of attempting to stay with Curry offers a whole different challenge.
“The Hawks were more penetration based, where the Warriors are explosive shooters,” Dellavedova said.
“Obviously, (you) try to keep (Curry) off the 3-point line, but also have to worry about him driving because he’s a good finisher at the rim. And then he also gets his teammates involved.”
Blatt said the Cavaliers are very sensitive to not take any risks to Irving’s health. Last summer, the sides agreed to a max contract of five years, $90 million.
“Of course, and that's one of the reasons that we sat him down for the games that we did in the previous two series,” Blatt said. “Coming in last night he was healthy and ready to go. Again, it's our hope right now that the news we get back from the evaluation is good. Or at least not bad.
“But we'll have to wait and see what the result is. Obviously the team has made a long term decision with Kyrie as did Kyrie himself, which speaks to the commitment that we have to one another. “
Added Blatt, “It's just my greatest hope that he's OK. Regarding the next game or the next one after that, it's a lot less significant.”