Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving started off his postseason with a bang. In his first ever playoff game against the Boston Celtics on April 19th, Irving poured in 30 points on 11-21 shooting, temporarily hushing the naysayers who claimed that Irving’s playoff inexperience would doom Cleveland in their quest for a championship.
However during the Cavaliers’ heartbreaking Game 3 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, Irving fell on the complete opposite of the success spectrum, finishing with 11 points on 3-13 shooting and zero assists. Irving’s poor performance can be attributed to the Bulls’ physical and stifling defense, but it’s also important to acknowledge that Irving was hindered by a foot injury during the game.
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, Irving has been playing with a strained right foot, an injury he apparently sustained during Game 2 of Cleveland’s first-round sweep of the Celtics.
Irving said the injury occurred in Game 2 of the Cavs’ first-round sweep of the Boston Celtics, which means he has been dealing with the soreness for more than two weeks. Irving underwent imaging and scans on his foot over the past week, and those confirmed a strain, according to a Cavs spokesman.
Here’s what Cavaliers head coach David Blatt had to say regarding Irving’s injured foot:
Look, we’re not talking about it, but Kyrie has been playing hurt. He’s showing a lot of courage, and he’s giving us everything he has. He played a terrific two first games, and he’ll continue to do that, but today was a little bit less of a successful game for him. He’s playing his heart out. He’s playing hurt, and he’s giving us all he has, and I’m proud of him.
Irving said he doesn’t want his foot ailment to excuse Game 3’s poor performance, and that he’ll continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that he’s ready to go.
I tried to get treatment on it, tried to stay ready to play,” Irving said. “But for me, I don’t make any excuses for myself, and for me to go out there, obviously, I was just trying to play through it as best I can, and I’m still going to continue to do that. But, as I said before, there’s no excuses. I know Coach [Blatt] was doing that to protect me. Just … 3-for-13, that’s not like me, but in terms of tonight, I’m not going to hang my head down on having a bad foot or anything like that. I’m just going to continue to have that mindset and that attitude to go out there and compete for my brothers.
With Kevin Love already on the shelf for the remainder of the postseason, keeping everyone else healthy is a top priority for the Cavs. Majority of players left in the playoffs are dealing with bumps, bruises and nagging injuries, but Irving’s malady seemed to be much more than something ordinary. He was limping visibly throughout the duration of Game 3, and he was 0-7 on shots in the paint, something uncommon for one of the best finishers in the league today.
Hopefully Irving recuperates and is able to play the way we are accustomed to seeing in Game 4 on Sunday. His ability to perform at a high level could be the difference between heading back to Cleveland with the series tied, or facing a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit.