By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDIANAPOLIS: A season that has been unraveling for weeks may have reached a new low Tuesday. The Cavaliers are spending New Year’s Day awaiting word on the health and future of their star point guard.
Kyrie Irving will have an MRI on his left knee today after he was injured in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 91-76 loss at the Indiana Pacers. Irving said he felt a “pop” in his knee when he was driving to the rim, slipped and fell.
He stood up and walked gingerly toward the bench, then sat on the court, then rolled on his back as the Cavs medical staff attended to him. He was helped to the locker room without putting much weight on the knee, but still returned for the fourth quarter.
“Just a routine play. Just felt something pop in my knee a little bit,” Irving said. “I thought the worst had happened.”
Cavs coach Mike Brown and a handful of teammates met Irving as he lay on the court. He was cleared to return by the medical staff and played 9½ minutes in the fourth quarter following the injury. He missed the only shot he took, grabbed a rebound and had a steal and turnover.
“My left knee is pretty weak right now. I was falling all over the place,” Irving said. “I didn’t have my legs under me.”
Irving’s injury history is long and well documented. He missed 15 games his rookie season and 23 games last year with various illnesses and ailments. He said recently his goal for this season was to play in all 82 games.
“I’m still hoping that there’s nothing wrong, just something slight, if anything at all,” he said. “Just hoping for the best.”
So are the Cavs, who haven’t had a whole lot to celebrate this season. They led the best team in the East 59-58 with four minutes left in the third quarter when Irving was hurt. The Cavs still held a 71-68 lead when he returned early in the fourth, but they shot 3-for-16 in the fourth and turned it over seven times after committing eight turnovers through the first three quarters.
“We don’t know how to close games,” Brown said.
Brown used a stat before the game that the Cavs’ assist-to-turnover ratio during the final four to five minutes of close games is 1-to-1. The ratio for Cavs’ opponents is better than 2-to-1.
Sure enough, in the fourth quarter Tuesday, the Cavs had three assists and seven turnovers. The Pacers had six assists and three turnovers.
Worse yet, only three of the Cavs’ 13 fourth-quarter shots came in the lane. The rest were all jump shots.
“I don’t think anybody can argue they saw some pretty good basketball from us the first three quarters,” Brown said. “You can go back to almost any game we played this month. We played some pretty good basketball against some pretty good teams until the last couple minutes. … The pass is huge for us and right now we’re forgetting about it late.”
Now they’ll wait for word on Irving, who has appeared in every game this season. The Cavs are presently engaged in trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol, a league source confirmed. A long-term injury to Irving could change the direction of the season.
The Cavs have dropped six straight, their longest streak of the season, and have lost eight of their last nine after beginning December 4-1.
“I still think we’re getting better because we’re playing better in longer stretches,” Brown said. “We have a hard time when the game is tight.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.