The Cleveland Cavaliers will have to make due without their best player for the next several weeks and begin life minus Kyrie Irving Wednesday versus the Philadelphia 76ers at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving suffered a non-displaced fracture of his left index finger in a loss to Dallas on Saturday, then played in Sunday's 86-79 setback at Philadelphia, registering a season-low nine points on just 4-of-14 shooting. The reigning Rookie of the Year will have the finger taped and in a splint for the next four weeks, and will be re-evaluated in a fortnight.
"It's frustrating but just got to get through it and stay positive," Irving said. "I tried to play through it but it was hurting me too much. Things happen in the game of basketball."
Irving said he can still shoot and maintain his conditioning, but obviously will take it slow to allow the bone to heal. Rookie Dion Waiters will handle most of the point guard duties with Irving out. Waiters is averaging 13.7 ppg -- third among all rookies.
Alonzo Gee led the Cavs with 17 points against the Sixers and has scored at least 15 points in four of his last five games. He is posting 13.8 ppg over that period. The 79 points scored were a season low for Cleveland.
Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson both had double-doubles in the loss as Varejao ended with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Thompson posted 14 points and pulled down 13 boards. The Cavs didn't shoot so well, making 35.7 percent of their shots and only 5-of-20 3-pointers. However, they did shoot a season- high .933 (14-15) from the free throw line.
Thompson has scored in double figures in six straight games, averaging 11.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in that span. Thompson also is banged up and sustained a nasal fracture against Philadelphia. X-rays revealed the break and Thompson is expected to wear a protective mask. He should play Wednesday for the Cavaliers, who have lost six in a row and are just 2-8 on the young season.
After hosting the 76ers, Cleveland will hit the road for three games at Orlando, Miami and Memphis.
Philadelphia is on a roll, having won three in a row and six of its last eight games. It closed out a five-game homestand (3-2) with Tuesday's 106-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors and scored 100-plus points for just the second time this season (2-0).
Nick Young had 23 points and Jason Richardson finished with 21, while Jrue Holiday registered 19 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and three steals for the Sixers, who shot 47.1 percent for the game and scored 15 points off 11 Toronto turnovers. Philly also had a 33-18 advantage in the final stanza.
"I told my players to remember this win," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "We had a lot of fight in the fourth quarter. I'm very proud of them."
The 76ers have outshot their opponent in each of the past three games and are 6-0 when doing so this season. They will return to the City of Brotherly Love following tonight's game to host the Thunder, Suns and Mavericks.
Philadelphia has won six in a row against the Cavaliers and three straight at Quicken Loans Arena.