In a time the Cavaliers are lifting the civic pride of Northeast Ohio, David Blatt paid Matthew Dellavedova the ultimate compliment.
“Delly’s the most Cleveland-like Australian I’ve ever met in my life,” the Cavaliers coach said.
Dellavedova, who scored 20 points in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 win over the Warriors, is embracing his adopted city – including taking advantage of its fine medical establishment.
Yup, Dellavedova literally left it all on the floor.
The Legend of Delly grows – from undrafted to the second-best starter on a team leading the NBA Finals in just two years.
Native Clevelanders have embraced him for the same reasons his teammates have.
“The guys love Delly, because he just plays with all his heart, and he cares first about the team and only about the team,” Blatt said. “And whether he’s playing nine minutes or 40 minutes, he’s going to give you everything you have. What’s not to love about the guy?”
Blatt added Dellavedova is Kyrie Irving’s favorite teammate. “Loves the guy,” the coach said.
Irving, on the mend, wasn’t around to confirm – and at one point that definitely wasn’t true. But the other Cavaliers were quick to sing Dellavedova’s praises tonight.
Tristan Thompson: “Every night, he’s going to come out and bust his tail. He’s going to play hard every possession.”
LeBron James: “He gives us that grit, that grit that we need. He gives us everything until the tank is empty. Then, he has a small little reserve tank that he continues to work through. He’s huge for us.”
Dellavedova isn’t the most talented player, but his style fits Cleveland’s needs in a starting point guard right now. He hounded Stephen Curry defensively, nearly constantly pestering the MVP. It wasn’t until the assignments changed that Curry got going, though his run continued once Dellavedova switched back onto him. Dellavedova also made a pair of 3-pointers on assists from LeBron James.
LeBron will do the heavy lifting. He just needs teammates who complement him – who exert enough energy on defense to allow him to conserve for offense, who make the opens shots he creates.
Dellavedova has started two games in the Finals, and he’s led all starters in plus-minus both times at +13. In 39 minutes tonight, he also added five rebounds and four assists to his 20 points.
“He’s had games like this. You may be surprised, because you don’t follow us all season. But he’s had some games like this,”Blatt said. “And I don’t even know that it’s a matter of confidence with Matt. I just think he plays as hard as he can every day. He plays right. He’s not afraid. He plays courageously.”
It’s even gotten to the point where a national audience can recognize Game 3 as a quintessential Dellavedova game.
He committed an arguably dirty play:
He made a ridiculous/lucky shot:
He dove for a crucial loose ball:
“He’ll give you whatever he has,” Blatt said, “and you can’t ask for any more than that.”
But the Cavaliers will.
They’ve built this series lead in large part because of Dellavedova, and the options are slim behind him without Irving. They need Dellavedova healthy in Game 4.
Maybe that’s actually the ultimate compliment.