(Reuters) - The Cleveland Cavaliers’ title hopes were dealt a severe blow on Friday when their All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the rest of the NBA Finals with a fractured knee.
Irving, 23, was on crutches when he left the team’s hotel to be evaluated earlier in the day and a subsequent MRI revealed a fracture in his left knee cap.
“He will have surgery to repair the knee in the coming days at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland by Cavaliers head team physician Dr. Richard Parker,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.
“His recovery time is projected to be three to four months and his status will be updated as appropriate.”
Irving, who has been bothered with tendinitis for the past six weeks, re-injured his left knee with two minutes remaining in Cleveland’s overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the best-of-seven NBA Finals on Thursday.
“Our main concern right now is just Kyrie’s health, that’s all,” Cavaliers head coach David Blatt told reporters earlier on Friday. “Every game is a new day, and if we have to make adjustments we will.”
Irving limped off the court on Thursday after an awkward fall and was clearly favoring his knee. He threw his Cavaliers jersey to the ground in frustration and was later sitting at his locker with a towel over his head and ice on his knee.
He had 23 points in the game along with seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocked shots. His stunning block from behind on Stephen Curry late in the fourth quarter helped the Cavs force overtime.
Irving missed two games during Cleveland’s previous playoff series because of tendinitis in his left knee and the team won both games.
Cleveland did not miss a beat after losing All-Star forward Kevin Love to a season-ending shoulder injury in the opening round of the playoffs, but the popular opinion seems to be that the loss of Irving could be too much for them to overcome.
But four-time NBA most Valuable Player LeBron James, who had a game-high 44 points in a losing effort on Thursday, felt his team was deep enough to persevere.
“The good thing about it, we’ve been in this position before,” said James. “It’s something that’s not new to us. So next man up, and guys will be ready for the challenge.”
Game Two is Sunday in Oakland.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both