CHICAGO -- After his point guard played 38 minutes without registering a single assist and missed 10 of 13 shots attempted Friday night, Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt revealed Kyrie Irving has been playing in the playoffs with a sore right foot.
"Look, we're not talking about it, but Kyrie has been playing hurt," Blatt said after Cleveland's 99-96 Game 3 loss to the Chicago Bulls, which put the Cavs at a 2-1 deficit in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. "He's showing a lot of courage, and he's giving us everything he has. He played a terrific two first games, and he'll continue to do that, but today was a little bit less of a successful game for him. He's playing his heart out. He's playing hurt, and he's giving us all he has, and I'm proud of him."
Irving said the injury occurred in Game 2 of the Cavs' first-round sweep of the Boston Celtics, which means he has been dealing with the soreness for more than two weeks. Irving underwent imaging and scans on his foot over the past week, and those confirmed a strain, according to a Cavs spokesman.
Before Friday's shaky performance, Irving did a great job of masking the injury. He averaged 22.0 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals in his first four games on the sore foot. He did admit to a lack of acceleration after Game 3 against Boston, which was also how Irving described his play in Game 3 against Chicago.
"I tried to get treatment on it, tried to stay ready to play," Irving said. "But for me, I don't make any excuses for myself, and for me to go out there, obviously, I was just trying to play through it as best I can, and I'm still going to continue to do that.
"But, as I said before, there's no excuses. I know Coach [Blatt] was doing that to protect me. Just ... 3-for-13, that's not like me, but in terms of tonight, I'm not going to hang my head down on having a bad foot or anything like that. I'm just going to continue to have that mindset and that attitude to go out there and compete for my brothers."
Irving, who went 1-for-11 in the second half of Game 3, including 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter, admitted he was limited to being a "decoy" or screen-setter on several possessions.
Nonetheless, LeBron James expressed confidence in Irving's ability to manage the injury better on Sunday in Game 4.
"It is what it is right now. No one feels sorry for Kyrie because he's hurting," James said. "We're not going to make any excuses. He's on the floor, [so] he has to make plays. And I have to help him, and we have to help our team. The injuries ... Obviously, from a competitive standpoint, it's killing him inside because I know what type of competitor he is and I know what type of teammate he is. He wants to do everything great for his teammates. But the situation is the situation.
"He's a great competitor. He gave us 40 minutes on one foot, and if he has to do it again on Sunday -- as frustrating as it is for him, it's a lot easier for me to say -- but as frustrating as it is for him, he'll do it again on Sunday."