CLEVELAND -- Not only did the Cleveland Cavaliers stave off an upset scare in their 87-86 win over the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, they also appear to have avoided major injuries to two of their key contributors.
Both Kevin Love (lower back) and Iman Shumpert (left ankle) were forced to exit the game early without returning to action. However, Cavs coach David Blatt downplayed the severity of their injuries moving forward.
"Kev took an elbow to the back and he was experiencing some real discomfort, so we took him out," Blatt said. "We didn't want to push it. Hopefully, he'll be OK. And Iman jammed his ankle. You saw he took sort of a funny step before he attempted to dunk that ball and he jammed his ankle. Also, I think he wanted to come back in there, but we held him out for precautionary reasons. I believe he'll be OK."
Love, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes, missed a layup with 7:16 remaining in the fourth quarter when the contact to his back occurred. Cleveland called timeout shortly thereafter, and Love went straight to the locker room for treatment.
Shumpert, who finished with nine points and three steals in 11 minutes, missed an open fast-break dunk with 4:30 remaining in the second quarter after his leg appeared to buckle as he gathered himself to jump. The four-year veteran asked out of the game after the play and was tended to on the bench by Cavs trainer Stephen Spiro before retreating to the locker room under his own power for further examination.
The Cavs don't play again until Thursday, when they host the Miami Heat, giving the players two days off before resuming practice on Wednesday.
"I just have to take these next couple days," Love said. "It's kind of fortunate with Shump and myself that we have these couple days."
Love said his back felt "good" and did not expect to miss any time from the lineup when the Cavs resume play against Miami. Shumpert did not speak to reporters after the game.
Their injuries only added to an otherwise haphazard game that saw the Sixers shoot 40.5 percent as a team with 13 turnovers, not to be outdone by the Cavs, who shot 38.8 percent with 17 turnovers.
"That was one of the ugliest games I've been in in this arena," Kyrie Irving said during an on-court interview with the Quicken Loans Arena emcee that played on the video board immediately after the game. "I appreciate you sticking with us because, whew, that was terrible."
Cleveland's last basket came on a Timofey Mozgov putback with 4:04 remaining to put the Cavs up 87-83. Philadelphia responded with a 3-pointer by Robert Covington with 3:57 left. Neither team scored again. After Covington's jumper, the Sixers went 0-for-5 as a team and 0-for-4 from the foul line. The Cavs, meanwhile, went 0-for-6 as a team with one turnover down the stretch.
"I was on the court just noticing, just looking up at the scoreboard like, 'It's been 87-86 for about four minutes,'" said Irving. "And I'm just like, 'Please, just let us get this win.'"
When a reporter described the game as ugly, Blatt retorted "that's not a nice thing to say. Maybe it was. I just think it's disrespectful to Philadelphia."
Blatt attributed the shoddy play to the Cavs finishing the month of March against Philly with their 15th game in 29 days, including 10 of those games coming on the road.
"I do think fatigue is a big part of us having less than a stellar performance," he said.
"It doesn't garner you any sympathy points and I'm not looking for it, and we're not, but that's the reality. These guys have just been through a hellacious schedule, and it's shown to have had an effect on us. And it's good now that we'll have a little time to rest and re-energize and refocus."
LeBron James, who put up team highs in points (20), rebounds (11) and assists (six) despite shooting 8-for-24 with five turnovers, would not accept any excuse about being tired, however.
"We're not fatigued," James said. "We're looking forward to closing out the season when it gets here and get ready for the postseason. We're not fatigued at all. We're a team that's trying to win a championship so we have that championship mindset every day how we play."
James was asked if the Cavs effort against the Sixers, coupled with their lackluster 106-98 loss in Brooklyn on Friday, constituted a "minor funk."
"A minor funk? We was 19-20 at one point. That ain't no funk. What's our record?" James said of the now-48-27 Cavs. "Not a funk at all. We're playing good ball. We're playing some good ball."
Before the game, Blatt was asked how he will manage the remaining schedule before the playoffs.
'"The first priority here is not to rest guys," Blatt said. "It's to play well, it's to stay in good shape, it's to work on a lot of things and it's to win basketball games in order to achieve our goals until the end of the season."
After the game, James was asked what he hoped to accomplish in the Cavs' final seven games.
"If we can stay healthy going into the postseason, we'll be fine," James said.