CLEVELAND (AP) — Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio suffered a season-ending left knee injury, a devastating blow to a Cleveland team that he helped moved into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs said an MRI taken Wednesday confirmed a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which was feared after Rubio got hurt late in Tuesday’s 108-104 loss at New Orleans.
The 31-year-old Rubio had a major impact in his first season with Cleveland, providing leadership and depth to a young squad. The Cavs have already won 20 games after going 22-50 last season.
Rubio’s injury is the second significant one to Cleveland’s backcourt. Collin Sexton suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 7. At the time, Sexton was the team’s leading scorer.
Rubio, who was acquired during the summer in a trade from Minnesota, slipped while driving in the lane as the Cavs were trying to protect a lead with two minutes left. Rubio’s knee buckled and he collapsed to the floor.
He grabbed his knee and Rubio was in obvious distress before being helped to his feet and walked to the locker room for evaluation. He didn’t put any weight on his left leg while being assisted by teammates Isaac Okoro and Kevin Love.
Before getting hurt, Rubio, who was starting at point guard against the Pelicans because Darius Garland was in the league’s health and safety protocols, scored 27 points while adding 13 rebounds and eight assists.
The Cavs fell apart after Rubio left and the Pelicans completed their rally from a 23-point deficit.
Rubio’s infectious playing style has rubbed off on Cleveland’s young players and he’s been both a quality backup and mentor to Garland. He’s also had a positive effect on Love, his former Timberwolves teammate, who is thriving in a reserve role.
“Him and I have such a history,” Love said following the game. “I really care for him. I’m just praying that he’s going to be OK. We don’t know what the near future is going to hold for him. We’re just completely gutted. He was having such a great season.”
Rubio picked up where he left off after starring for Spain’s Olympic team last summer in Tokyo. He’s averaging 13.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 34 games. Rubio is only under contract through this season.
It’s the second time Rubio has torn his left ACL. The first was as a rookie when he collided with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports