What The Loss Of Kyrie Irving Means To The Cleveland Cavaliers


After LeBron James missed the potential game-winning basket to force Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals into overtime. Losing the game would unfortunately not be the biggest loss of the night for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving, who had been battling injuries all postseason with foot and knee pain, fractured his kneecap driving to the basket with two minutes left in overtime, ultimately ending his season.

Jun 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) walks off the court after being injured during the fourth quarter in game one of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Now that two-time champion James and the Cavaliers will be without two of their biggest players with the absence of Kevin Love and now Irving, how big of an impact does Irving’s injury make on the Cavs chances of winning the NBA title?

Well, before I give my take on what Irving’s injury means to the Cavaliers chances, let me just remind those fans that the Cavaliers entered the finals as underdogs, even with Irving in the lineup. That being said, now that we know that he’s out due to a fractured kneecap, I believe the Cavaliers chances of winning a championship for the city of Cleveland went from slim to almost near impossible. Although Cleveland still has James, who is arguably the best player on the planet, is now in his fifth straight finals appearance. The lack of depth for the Cavaliers seems it won’t be able to overcome this injury as they are up against the highest competition they’ve faced the entire playoffs, the Golden State Warriors.

Even in Game 1 where James scored 44 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists, a stat that looks like it would mount to a win looking at the stat sheet alone. It still wasn’t enough to put away the Warriors who looked like the more desperate team in overtime, ultimately leading to a 108-100 win to take a 1-0 series lead to begin the finals.

June 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) falls to the floor while being defended by Golden State Warriors guard

Klay Thompson

(11) during the overtime period in game one of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Back to the question – What does Irving’s absence mean to the Cavaliers chances of winning the finals?

Not only did the three-time All-Star bring another offensive threat alongside James with his ability to spread the floor and knock down shots, but Irving’s playmaking ability and competitive nature is what will be the biggest losses for the Cleveland Cavaliers moving forward.

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Besides James, Irving was the only player on the Cavs that would consistently take responsibility in controlling the offense, setting up plays for himself and others around him. Irving, who came into the finals already dealing with knee issues, played a questionable 44 minutes and was a big reason why the Cavaliers were in good shape to steal Game 1 before going down in overtime. Now without another playmaker to help James run the offense, I don’t think the Cavs have enough firepower to match Golden State’s high-fueled offense led by reigning MVP, Stephen Curry. Irving wasn’t someone who just fed off of James’ high-level of play, but he’s a game-changer himself; highly regarded as one of the best point guards in the league at the young age of 23. He was also the go-to-guy when James was on the sideline as Cavaliers head coach, David Blatt, would run the offense through him.

June 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) moves the ball as center

Tristan Thompson

(13) provides a screen against Golden State Warriors guard

Leandro Barbosa

(19) during the second half in game one of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As much as they’ll miss him offensively, the Cavaliers will miss him for the competitive nature he brings to the floor every night. Irving, who’s known more for his offensive abilities, also made one of the biggest plays of the game defensively when he blocked Curry with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter with the scored tied that helped the Cavs push the game into overtime. And although the Cavaliers would still end up losing, Irving’s play was still game-changing nonetheless as he showed toughness and heart by not giving up on the play after briefly being beat to the basket to what many believed was going to be the go-ahead basket for Curry and the Warriors.

Also, as I wrote in my previous article, I believed Irving could make a big impact on slowing Curry down by making him work on the defensive end on the floor through high-screens and constant cuts to the basket. Now that he is out, I don’t think Curry will have as high of pressure on him defensively since he won’t have to guard any player nearly as talented as Irving.

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  • Now it is up to Matthew Dellavedova, who will step in to fill Irving’s shoes, and the rest of the Cavs role players to step up to the challenge if they want to make this a series and be crowned champions when it’s all said and done. I expect James to be a lot more aggressive on offense and continue to play a high number of minutes due to Irving’s injury. Also, expect coach Blatt to try new lineups out during the game that may include veteran forward, Mike Miller, who was a key role player in the Miami Heat winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. All in all, just expect a different look from this team as they try to push forward despite all the injuries mounting up here in the finals.

    It will be interesting to see how the short-handed Cavaliers respond in Game 2 as they will be faced with an even tougher task trying to steal a road victory from the Warriors, who have an astonishing 47-3 home record this season without their star point guard.

    June 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates a scoring play during a time out against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the overtime period in game one of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    I originally predicted the Golden State Warriors to win the series in six, but now with the fracture to Irving’s kneecap, I believe the Warriors will take care of business in five games at most. It wouldn’t surprise me if Golden State went into Cleveland and won both Game 3 and 4 there to complete a sweep and be crowned the 2015 NBA champions. But before we get carried away here, lets just see what happens in Game 2 and go from there, as we wish Irving a speedy recovery.