In Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, Matthew Dellavedova announced his arrival to the NBA playoff stage. With Kyrie Irving aggravating his knee in the first half, the Aussie Boomer picked up from where Irving left off as he finished with 19 points and three big three pointers to allow the Cavaliers to eliminate the Bulls in front of a stunned United Center crowd.
Dellavedova’s effort is a classic example of hard work paying off. He was an undrafted rookie last season who got invited to join the Cavs’ summer league team in 2013, and despite not having gaudy stats, caught the attention of the Wine and Gold braintrust with his intensity and heads up play.
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He is not the most athletic guard who can rack up those steals nor the deadliest shooter to make it rain at The Q. He has average length and, basically, nothing about him stands out. However, if one gives a closer look at how Delly plays, it won’t be difficult to notice how he sticks it to his man on defense, how he always goes after the 50/50 balls, how he plays the game in a simple manner, without any flashy showboating, that it allows him to stay off from committing lousy turnovers too often. But his ticket, without a doubt, is his hard work and tenacity that Anderson Varejao even referred to him as the Cavs’ “pitbull”.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown, a Popovich disciple who also called the shots for Delly’s Australian national team, also sang praises for Delly at one point:
“He’s a little bit Neanderthal in how he goes about his business, but he’s for real. Matthew Dellavedova is a winner. He’s not glamorous. But he’s effective and a helluva teammate.”
Teammate LeBron James talked about playing with Delly, who won the Game 6 game ball and celebrated with the team after the win.
“You can’t coach a motor. Some guys have it, some guys don’t,” says James. “I have the luxury of having three guys on this team with high motors. If you put those guys on the floor, they’re going to make something happen. When you have guys who play as hard as they do, they’re in-tune with what they need to do to help the team win, the mistakes or the shots missing, I don’t care about. Delly doesn’t make a mistake just because he misses a shot. Tristan doesn’t make a mistake because he didn’t get a stop. These guys play so hard. You’re able to brush that to the side because their intentions are so for the team. It has nothing to do about themselves. I’m a team guy. I’ve always been that way. I was taught that way. When you’re around guys who are only about the team and about themselves secondary, you can appreciate that.
But Delly’s shining moment prior to this year’s playoffs happened during a game between the Cavaliers and Wizards. The Cavs were down 27 in the third quarter but managed to trim the lead to just 4 as Dellavedova simply put the clamps on Bradley Beal. Although Cleveland lost the game, he surely made a permanent mark on Beal’s mind that the latter has this to say about him:
“Dellavedova from Cleveland is a great defender. He’s a pest, he annoys you. I give credit where it’s due, man, ’cause he’s definitely one of the toughest that I’ve been against.”
Delly’s Game Six outburst brought to mind a similar night from the 2007 playoffs where another backup point guard rose to the occasion to bring the Cavaliers to the next level. Daniel Gibson, who was the reliever of former Cavalier starter Eric Snow, exploded for 31 points in a Game Six victory over the Pistons in the East Finals which catapulted Cleveland to its first ever NBA Finals appearance in team history. Gibson “Boobie trapped” the Pistons by scoring 19 fourth quarter points as he just sank whatever LeBron James threw at him. Before the “Delly Trey” became news, there was already the “Boobie Splash”.
Interestingly enough, there are a number of parallel things about the two point guards. Both Delly and Boobie are gritty defenders who, at best, are great role players for contenders. Both are specialists and have had their one shining moment thus far which allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to get to the next playoff stage. Lastly, both are individuals who worked their way from the bottom to achieve heights that never seemed attainable to some of the people around them.