INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers have approximately 99 problems, and most of them are injury-related.
Yet the Cavs won Game Four of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Chicago Bulls on a LeBron James buzzer-beater on Sunday to even the series at 2-2 and return to Cleveland for Game Five with momentum.
The march — even if it’s more like a limp — towards an NBA title continues.
Monday brought official confirmation via MRI that All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has tendinitis in his left knee. Irving has also been battling a strained right foot for two weeks now, since Game Two of the Cavs’ first-round series vs. the Boston Celtics.
Irving admitted he hasn’t been the same player since then but said, "I can’t look myself in the mirror and sit on the bench or sit in the locker room while I watch my teammates go out there. I’d rather give 30, 40 percent rather than give none at all. I just literally can’t do it."
Irving said he won’t be at 100 percent anytime soon "but I try to will myself every day just to be there for my teammates. It’s something I’ve never really dealt with before having (issues) in both legs…that’s how I make my living.
"Now it’s just about finding ways to still be effective and take pressure off of (James)."
James rolled his ankle in Sunday’s fourth quarter and, upon reviewing the film Monday, grimaced.
"I don’t know how I finished the game," James said.
But James stayed in the game and was receiving treatment Monday, and missing any time now is not an option.
Asked if the team had considered resting Irving, Cavs coach David Blatt said "not at this time" and said he appreciates Irving "trying to gut it out" and playing through the injuries.
Irving in the Bulls series has played 44, 34 38 and 41 minutes, respectively. Over the last two games he’s made just 5-of-23 shots.
"I am hopeful (Irving) improves a little each day, hopeful he gets to the court feeling a little better," Blatt said. "We are better at whatever percent we can have him than we are without him, no question."
When James and Irving emerged from a team film session Monday afternoon, James was in flip flops and Irving in sandals. For a Cavs team trying to hobble on after losing Kevin Love to a separated shoulder in the first round and playing through injuries to Irving and James and groin injury guard Iman Shumpert suffered in Game Two vs. the Bulls, there aren’t practices at this point as much as there’s group therapy.
The Cavs and Bulls have played every other day since opening the series on May 4. The stakes keep getting higher.
"I still can shoot," Irving said. "They still have to respect me out there. It’s frustrating, challenging to say the least. But I just have to find a way to be able to help us."