Show of hands: how many people outside of Northeast Ohio knew who Matthew Dellavedova was before this postseason started? Other than maybe his friends and family, I’m willing to bet you’d hear a lot of crickets when his name came up in conversation back then.
That’s likely going to change after this NBA Finals series.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, those same Cavs who are without two of their All-Stars, who are supposed to be getting spanked by the Golden State Warriors, are now two victories away from ending a city’s 51-year championship drought. And they wouldn’t be in this position without the play of Dellavedova.
Throughout the night, Dellavedova continued playing the style of basketball that’s made him a household name. Gritty, persistent, not always pretty, that’s Dellavedova in a nutshell. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to matter who he’s playing against, his efforts just keep working.
After smothering NBA MVP Steph Curry in Game 2, Dellavedova was once again put back on the Warriors’ top star tonight. Yet again, despite his refusal to credit the plucky Australian’s defense after Game 2, Curry just couldn’t get his game going. He eventually got hot late in the game when Golden State started chipping away at Cleveland’s astonishing 20-point lead, but this was partly due to the Cavs switching Dellavedova off of him. For some reason.
Of course, if it was just his defensive efforts, Dellavedova would likely just be a secondary footnote to tonight’s victory. It’s what happens when LeBron James puts up 40 points on a near triple-double. However, tonight Dellavedova decided to contribute on offense, as well.
The Cavs’ guard put up a career playoff-high 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting. He was hitting his token floaters. He drilled a couple three-pointers. And he somehow, by some sort of miracle, hit a runner while falling to the ground, getting an and-1 opportunity. Of course, he canned that free throw as well.
Remember, it was Dellavedova who was supposed to be the reason why Golden State, upon hearing the news of Kyrie Irving being out for the year, was just going to polish off the Cavs in a cool four-to-five games. Yes, Cleveland’s backup was a nice storyline during the playoffs, but there was just no way he could stop Curry. There was no way he could offer even one hundredth of the offense Irving could have.
In his two games starting in place of Irving this series, it sure doesn’t look like Dellavedova is going to hold the Cavs back from their championship aspirations. If anything, he’s bringing them closer.
If you think about it, Dellavedova is essentially Cleveland as a whole right now. He’s not supposed to be there, not supposed to be having the impact he’s contributing right now, not supposed to be frustrating a goliath of an opponent. He’s a fun story, but not one which will matter in the long run. The Cavs in general are supposed to be midway through a blowout loss. But, here they are, two wins away from history.
What Dellavedova and the Cavs are doing right now is nothing short of miraculous. Cleveland was a solid underdog before they lost Irving. Despite this, they’re holding a vaunted Warriors offense to astonishingly low point totals (at least by their typical standards). They’ve got a team everyone pegged as eventual champions now left trying to figure out how this squad featuring LeBron James and a bunch of also-rans has them on the ropes.
When the Finals started, Las Vegas had the odds of Dellavedova winning the Finals MVP at 500/1. I’m not saying he’s about to defy that kind of longshot. However, that we’re even having this conversation is a stunning development on its own.
The Cavs are two wins away from giving the city of Cleveland something it hasn’t seen in over half a decade, and Matthew Dellavedova is a big reason why. I’m not sure anyone was prepared to utter such a statement even as recently as last week. Thus, the legend of the scrappy Australian backup just keeps growing.