It turns out that Cleveland backup guard Matthew Dellavedova might be more dangerous to Golden State’s chances of winning the NBA Finals than injured star guard Kyrie Irving was.
The 24-year-old Australian played the game of his life Sunday, silencing NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry defensively and sinking two clutch over-time free throws with the game on the line to give the Cavaliers a 95-93 victory that evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
After squandering an 11-point lead in the final minutes of regulation time, the Cavaliers watched Curry sink two free throws to give the Warriors their first lead after half-time in the dying seconds of the extra five-minute period.
But Dellavedova was fouled going for a rebound and answered with two tension-filled free throws of his own to put the Cavaliers ahead to stay at 94-93.
“That’s a classic thing you practice as a kid growing up, down one, you need to make both free throws, so I felt like I’ve been in that situation a million times before,” Dellavedova said.
Dellavedova started in place of Irving, who suffered a fractured left kneecap in Thursday’s game one loss. Some saw that as an end to Cleveland’s hopes of the city’s first pro sports crown in 51 years.
But Curry went 5-of-23 from the floor, including 2-of-15 from 3-point range, in his worst shooting performance of the season. His 13 missed 3-pointers were an NBA Finals record, two more than the old mark belonging to John Starks from 1994.
Asked what Dellavedova did to shut him down, Curry said: “Nothing really, just besides playing their game plan and playing defense like every pro is supposed to.
“Not giving up on any possession. But I doubt this will happen again, with the adjustments I’ll make once I’ll look at the film.
“One game is not going to make me stop shooting or alter my confidence at all.”
When Dellavedova was guarding Curry, the NBA Most Valuable Player went 0-for-8 from the floor, 0-for-5 from 3-point range with four turnovers.
“You’ve got to give him credit. He made big plays,” Warriors scoring leader Klay Thompson said of Dellavedova.
The humble reserve who went undrafted in the NBA had taken out the top scoring threat on the NBA’s winningest club this season.
“It had everything to do with Delly,” said Cavaliers star LeBron James, who had NBA Finals career highs of 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and 50 minutes on the court.
“He just kept a body on Steph. He made Steph work. He was spectacular defensively. We needed everything from him. He just did a great job.
“Just trying to make it tough on Steph. That’s all you can do. You make it tough on him. Delly did that.”
– Cavs confident in Delly –
James said he had never had a teammate like Dellavedova.
“He’s unique in his own way,” James said. “He is a guy that has been counted out his whole life.
“Probably people have been telling him he’s too small, he’s not fast enough, can’t shoot it enough, can’t handle it good enough, and he’s beat the odds so many times.
“The confidence that we have in him allows him to be confident in himself. He goes out and he just plays his tail off, and when a guy like that does that, he gets great results.”
The Cavaliers went 2-11 when Dellavedova started during the regular season. They are 3-0 when he does in the playoffs.
After missing the game bus to the hotel after the opener and needing Uber to give him a lift, Dellavedova was in a better place after game two, according to Aussie pal Patty Mills, an NBA champion last year with San Antonio.
“Della, you can wait as long as you want brus,” he tweeted. “Bus not leaving without you tonight!”
Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt loved seeing Dellavedova’s performance, which included nine points, five rebounds and three steals.
“He did what he has been doing every time that we’ve put him in that position. He’s a courageous kid that plays right,” Blatt said. “Just plays hard, heartfelt, and tough basketball.” – Agence France-Presse