Game 2 today was a real grindfest, and it showed in the 95-93 Cavaliers' overtime victory.
Cleveland managed to dictate the game tempo with bruising, torturous basketball. This was especially evident in the third quarter, when both teams failed to score more than 15 points in those twelve minutes.
A lot of people call Memphis basketball ugly, but Cleveland took the definition to a new level today. Without Kyrie Irving (fractured kneecap), the Cavaliers' game plan looked somewhat like this: bludgeon the Warriors with predictable, endless isolation plays from the best player in the league, and spice that up with a heavy stick (read: Mozgov).
And it worked. LeBron James was the basketball equivalent of Swiss army knife. He had a triple-double (39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists) and was dominant in much of the game, often drawing multiple defenders and opening opportunities up for his team.
The storyline of Game 2 was defense, and that topic was right up a certain Australian guard's alley.
Klay Thompson was seemingly unstoppable with his fluid shooting early on, and scored 34 points overall. Delly did not have much success when defending the lankier Klay Thompson, but showed his defensive tenacity on the MVP.
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Curry only made a single made basket (a real circus shot), out of eight attempts (you read that right) 21 minutes of action early on, and Dellavedova's dogged persistence had a lot to do with that stat.
Matty however got whistled for a second foul with nearly three minutes left in the half, and was replaced by Shumpert. Guess who sank a three right after that? No prizes for the right answer.
A great part of Cleveland's success on defense had to do with slowing the game pace down, and the Warriors were unable to run their usual fast-paced offense, or get much in the way of transition opportunities. Dellavedova experienced early foul trouble in the second half, when Golden State picked their pace up. Dellavedova had to deal with Curry and Thompson in transition, and the results weren't pretty. Curry managed an open layup, and Delly was called on a blocking foul.
Delly's energy never faltered all game long, and he continued to do his best to lock Curry down with single-minded determination. This was his only job. Not score, not facilitate, but to deny, defend and make life as hard as possible for the Golden State star guard. Fight past screens, stay in the way of passing lanes to Curry, and don't give up no matter what.
And it worked. Curry ended the night with 19 points, shooting 2 of 15 from the arc (5 of 23 from the field). According to ESPN, Curry was scoreless when defended by the Australian guard.
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A signature play of Delly's came on a loose ball, when both teams were scrambling to gain possession. The Cleveland guard got down on the floor and made sure to come back up with the ball, allowing LeBron to call timeout and gain some breathing time.
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Cleveland was clearly out of steam towards the end. Golden State pulled even, and sent the game to overtime. Dellavedova nevertheless, continued to contribute. He defended Iguodala on an isolation play, grabbed rebounds, and was forced to defend a mismatch again, this time on Draymond Green. It seemed like he pulled a leg muscle during that play, as he was seen rubbing his leg and trying to stretch it after that.
Hustle matters, and Delly delivers
The pivotal play of the night surprisingly, wasn't a Curry three or a LeBron drive.
Everything was on the line, and it came down to a Dellavedova rebound. James Jones missed a three from the corner, and Delly sprinted into the paint for a putback attempt. He got the ball, threw it up and was fouled by Barnes. [gfycat data_id="IncredibleFluidGermanspitz" data_autoplay=true data_expand=true] This resulted in a whistle and two made free throws by Delly, giving Cleveland the lead with 10.1 seconds to go, 94-93. A scant one point lead that would easily be squandered.
The game wasn't quite over yet, and Delly knew it. He was responsible for defending Curry in the subsequent possession, a baseline shot that might have turned things around. And that, was the last shot Golden State took this night. They fouled James in an attempt to get a final shot, but messed up their final possession, leaving it in Cleveland hands as the clock ran out.
Matthew Dellavedova ended the night with 9 points, 5 rebounds, one assist and three steals. It wasn't an earthshaking stat line, but the game had his fingerprints all over.
After the game was over, LeBron James was asked about what the team got from Delly this night, and James was full of emotional praise for the young guard.
"Everything. He came out, he defended. He rebounded. He made timely shots, he was huge for us. We knew we could count on him, we've been in this position before, and he gave us everything and more that he had tonight."
Delly displayed some keen vision on his single assist of the night, when whipping in this post entry pass down to Mozgov for the easy two points.
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Bogut's battle with foul trouble underscores underwhelming night
Andrew Bogut had trouble trouble all night long, and was constantly in and out of the lineup. He had issues defending Mozgov's rolls to the basket, on plays like these.
[gfycat data_id="YellowWeirdBighornsheep" data_autoplay=true data_expand=true] Delly hasn't been the greatest finisher at the rim, and I'm not sure if Bogut's partial rotation to Dellavedova on that play was warranted. It might have worked out better, if he had just stayed on Mozgov.
Check out this sneaky great pass from Bogut to Curry for the wild bank shot.
He drew a charge on Mozgov in the first quarter, and tried really hard to put Tristan Thompson on a poster as well, which didn't exactly work out.
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Remember the last block on James in Game 1? It happened again tonight. The Golden State big man continued the streak and denied James once more. LeBron --whose game plan seemed to consist of isolation-heavy basketball on Harrison Barnes-- tried to muscle his way into the paint and failed, being denied by first Bogut, then Draymond Green in the same possession. Repeated isolation offense isn't always the best idea when it comes to getting consistent buckets.
Bogut ended Game 2 with 2 points (both free throws), 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, and 4 personal fouls for the night.
The Cavaliers are 3-0 when Dellavedova starts in the playoffs. It certainly seems like this trend needs to continue, if they are to pull the series out and have a fighting chance at the championship. Look out for more Delly time as the Finals head over to Cleveland, and to see how the Warriors will prepare their counterstroke in the upcoming road games.
Regardless, Delly has more than proven that he belongs on the biggest stage this night, and it doesn't necessarily means putting up big numbers, or triggering debate about dirty plays.
The Delly factor is real, folks. And we all know it.
(And LeBron promises the team isn't leaving Delly behind this time.)