Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving has a fractured left kneecap and will require surgery, ending his season one game into the NBA Finals.
It is a decisive blow for the Cavaliers, who are trying to capture their first championship in 45 years of existence.
Irving crumpled to the court while driving toward the basket Thursday in overtime of Golden State’s 108-100 victory. He has been bothered by soreness in the knee in recent weeks and missed two games of the Eastern Conference finals because of what the team called severe tendinitis.
Irving, 23, will undergo surgery within a few days, the Cavaliers said, and has a recovery time of three to four months.
Before news of Irving’s injury was disclosed, LeBron James tried to sound as upbeat as possible.
“The good thing about it, we’ve been in this position before,” he said Friday afternoon. “If he’s not able to go, it’s something that’s not new to us. So next man up, and guys will be ready for the challenge.”
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, few were up for the challenge in Game 1 besides James (44 points), Irving (23 points, six assists, four steals) and Timofey Mozgov (16 points).
The reserves totaled nine points, all of them coming from cold-shooting J.R. Smith (three for 13 in Game 1).
Irving averaged 19 points and 3.8 assists in 13 playoff games. He is the second Cavaliers player to suffer a season-ending injury in the playoffs, joining forward Kevin Love, who hurt his shoulder in the first round against Boston.
Irving injured his knee after coming up with what could have been one of the biggest plays of the game for the Cavaliers, a chase-down, fingertip block of a layup from Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
A basket by the 2015 most valuable player would have given the Warriors a two-point advantage in the final 30 seconds of regulation.