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Matthew Dellavedova (AUS) and Stephen Curry (USA)
08/06/2015
League
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Delly puts the clamps on Curry

OAKLAND (NBA) - Not many fans or pundits would have envisioned the 2015 NBA Finals taking the twists and turns that it has.

The biggest development of all is related to the loss of FIBA Basketball World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers to a knee injury at the end of the Golden State Warriors's 108-100 overtime win in Game 1.

His departure for the remainder of the Finals has thrust Australia's Matthew Dellavedova into the limelight for the Cavaliers.

Who could have predicted that Dellavedova, an undrafted second-year man out of St Mary's, would not only start at point guard for Cleveland but hound NBA MVP Stephen Curry into a terrible shooting night in Game 2 on Sunday night and make some key plays down the stretch to help the Cavs prevail in overtime, 95-93?

At least one person is not surprised.

"He did what he does every time we've put him in that position," Cleveland coach David Blatt said.

He's [Dellavedova] a courageous kid who plays right. - Blatt

"There was a lot of nonsense swirling around [earlier in the playoffs] about his style of play.

"I think anyone who really looks at him objectively recognizes he just plays hard, heartfelt, tough basketball."

Dellavedova is showing everyone what Australian basketball and sport in general is known for.

He's combative and never gives in.

If he loses, he comes back the next day to win and to give everything.

Dellavedova, it seems, was made for this moment, made to have an important role in the NBA Finals.

The 1.93m guard debuted for Australia's senior team while still shy of his 19th birthday, at the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship.

He was a starter for the Boomers at the 2012 London Olympics, while still a player in American college basketball with the St Mary's Gaels.

Dellavedova does not possess the flair of many stars in the NBA, yet he has an abundance of grit and determination.

He understands how to play defense and knows that it's imperative to keep his feet on the ground when things go as well as they have so far for him in the postseason.

During the season and the playoffs, and even now, there will be some that say Dellavedova is not good enough to play in the NBA and certainly not good enough to be logging big minutes in the Finals.

He had nine points, five rebounds, an assists, three steals and six turnovers in Game 2.

"I don't really pay attention to anything outside of the locker room because none of that stuff really matters," Dellavedova said after the Game 2 win.

The big plays that really mattered, other than his suffocating defense of Curry which led to one-half of the Splash Brothers connecting on just two of 15 from long range and five of 23 overall?

In a crucial late sequence, he crashed the boards and was fouled while collecting an offensive rebound, and made two free-throws to put the Cavs ahead by one.

On one of Golden State's last possessions, Dellavedova guarded Curry and prevented him from getting a good look at the basket and the USA World Cup star shot an air ball.

Though he pumped his fists and shouted for glee at the time, and nearly everyone has given him credit for putting the clamps on Curry, the Australian remains humble.

He said it was going to take great team defense to have any success against the Warriors star.

"I don't think anyone can really stop Steph Curry," he said. 

"He can get his shot off pretty much whenever he wants and can get hot in a second.

"So we'll watch the tape and see what we need to do for Game 3."

Even with Curry enduring a tough night, the Warriors almost overcame his struggles because of their other USA star, Klay Thompson.

The second leading scorer on the United States team at the World Cup last year in Spain, where the Americans went unbeaten and defended their title, Thompson had 34 points but the output wasn't enough.

As for Dellavedova, he said after the triumph that everything he has done on the basketball court in his life has helped him prepare for this moment.

"I think all of your experiences, this season, last season, at St. Mary's, at the (Australian) Institute of Sport, growing up in Maryborough, everything, you want to learn from everything that you do and have gone through," he said.

"So you just want to continually keep trying to get better."

Dellavedova's style of play is now what this series is all about for Cleveland.

It's not about being pretty, but about digging deep and getting wins.

Even LeBron James, who had 39 points and 16 rebounds on Sunday, said that was the case.

"It's the grit squad right now," James said.

If you expect us to play sexy, cute basketball, that's not us right now. - James

"Everything is tough, and it has to be that for rest of series."

Lost in all of the hysteria about Dellavedova was that some other Cavs had some big contributions.

Russia international Timofey Mozgov had 17 points and 11 rebounds and Canada's Tristan Thompson pulled down 14 rebounds.

Australia's Andrew Bogut collected 14 rebounds for the Warriors, who also got a terrific game from Draymond Green.

The forward finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four blocks.

Game 3 is on Tuesday in Cleveland.

FIBA