The deepest fears of all Cavalier fans, who desperately want their team to bring a championship to Cleveland, and just NBA fans in general who want to see the best NBA Finals possible, were confirmed this afternoon. Kyrie Irving, will miss the rest of the NBA Finals with a fractured kneecap. He’ll be out of action for 3 to 4 months. Irving, suffered the injury in overtime of Game 1. It was initially thought that it could be a reaggravation of his previous injuries. However, Kyrie was quoted as saying “this felt different”. Turns out he was right. The Cavs were already facing an uphill climb. Now, that climb has gotten even taller.
The Cavs had every opportunity to win Game 1, but let it slip away. They even had two shots to win in regulation. But, a fadeaway jumper from LeBron James was no good. After getting the offensive rebound, Iman Shumpert had a shot from about 15 feet that looked good but rolled off the rim. The loss was even more damaging when you consider LeBron and Kyrie both had stellar performances. Even with Irving, it was questionable whether or not that type of performance could be counted on for the bulk of the series. Now, Irving is out, and the chances of LeBron and the Cavs bringing home a title for the first time in over 50 years look very bleak.
Where do they turn? The bench gave them nothing, unless you’re actually counting the nine points from J.R. Smith. Compared to the Warriors bench, who outscored their Cleveland counterparts 34-9, the Cavs are very thin. Matthew Dellavedova, will get his shot again. He played well against the Bulls’ Derrick Rose, and the Hawks’ Jeff Teague. Two of the better point guards in the game. But, can you count on him to keep that up? Plus, this isn’t against either of those offensively challenged teams. This is against the best offense in the world, with the NBA’s MVP in Steph Curry.
LeBron, during post-game interviews last night said, “next man up”. Meaning, next player in line to replace Irving. That phrase should have been the ‘only’ man up. Dellavedova, is about it. There is no one else on the Cavs bench that can make a huge impact. Sure, James Jones is good for a perimeter jumper or two. But, anything extra from him is very unlikely. The Cavs have made it this far by playing with 8 guys for the most part. That will have to continue with guys like Tristan Thompson, who played 47 minutes last night, having to work a lot of overtime.
So, are the 2015 NBA Finals over? Not only the physical state, but maybe more importantly the mental state of the Cavs has to be questioned now. However, anytime a player the caliber of LeBron James is on the floor, anything can happen. So, it’s not over. Plus, as good as the Warriors are they’ve never been in this position before. Will they relax a little knowing the status of Kyrie? Will they have the killer instinct to dominate Game 2 and the rest of this series, the way most are expecting them to do now? We’ll just have to see Sunday when the two teams square off for Game 2.
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