Dellavedova key to LeBron’s ‘Grit Squad’

The legend of Matthew Dellavedova continues to be written.


The scrappy lad with a surname people struggle to pronounce was already Maryborough, Victoria’s favourite son and Cleveland’s new working-class hero.

The 24-year-old’s stardom was launched to a new level after his heroics for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Sunday’s 95-93 overtime NBA Finals game two victory over the Golden State Warriors.

The teams are locked 1-1 in the series.

Across the US on Monday in the sports pages of newspapers, on sports talk radio and in TV reports Dellavedova’s story received top-billing, or a co-starring role with his great Cavaliers teammate LeBron James.

“For better or worse, Matthew Dellavedova has a knack for making himself the story,” the New York Times began its story on the Australian.

The Washington Post told its readers how “Dellavedova has secured a place in the hearts of Clevelanders for eternity”.

CBS Sports, in a story titled, “How Matthew Dellavedova took the fire out of Stephen Curry”, began with: “The best heroes are often unexpected, and Matthew Dellavedova certainly fits that bill”.

Dellavadova was brought into the Cavaliers’ starting line-up after the kneecap fracture to starting point guard Kyrie Irving.

The man known in the Cavaliers’ locker room as Delly grabbed a key offensive rebound with 10.1 seconds to go, was fouled, put Cleveland ahead with two free throws and then forced Curry into an airball on the Warriors star’s last shot.

Many in the American media predicted Dellavedova would be embarrassed by Curry, arguably the best shooter in basketball history and reigning NBA MVP.

Dellavedova’s tenacious defence shut Curry down, with the All-Star scoring just once on the Australian – when he bamboozled Dellavedova with some slick dribbling and scored a layup.

Curry has vowed to not be outplayed again.

He won’t have long to wait with game three of the best-of-seven series played in Cleveland on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).

“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,” James, discussing Dellavedova, said in his post game interview.

The unfashionable Dellavedova, who has stepped up his look in the finals by replacing his usual hoodie jacket with crisp new suits, fits perfectly into James’ battered and bruised Cavaliers.

Dellavedova’s statistics in game two weren’t pretty – nine points from 3-10 shooting (1-6 from behind the three point line), six turnovers, five rebounds, three fouls and one assist in 42 minutes on the court.

It was the harassing defence on Curry, that one offensive rebound he snatched from taller, stronger Warriors, diving on loose balls, the three-pointer when the Cavaliers were sinking and his will to keep going when it looked like he had just ran a marathon that was astounding to watch.

It’s the blue collar guy James needed.

“It’s The Grit Squad that we have,” James told reporters.

“It’s not cute at all. If you’re looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, then that’s not us.”

And a key contributor in James’ Grit Squad is Delly, the Aussie who refuses to be written off.