Despite being faced with the threat of elimination, the Korver-less Atlanta Hawks failed to rise to the occasion today. The 118-88 Cleveland victory marked the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, and a despondent end to what has otherwise been a brilliant, inspiring season by Atlanta.
LeBron James has made his way back to the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive time. The loss of a key player in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving's injuries, and James' own fatigue (4th highest playoff minutes this season) have faded into inconsequence, mere stepping stones if you will. Suffice it to say, the King has had his way.
And so it is. Along with the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a certain Australian guard will make his first entry into the grand stage of the NBA Finals.
Few would have been convinced of Matthew Dellavedova's impact in the playoffs. And yet here he is, playing his heart out on the biggest stage ever, fighting for every loose ball and having the time of his life. With the recent spate of high profile plays (Gibson incident, Korver loose ball, Horford ejection) Delly was involved in, people are slowly but surely noticing the difference the scrappy guard from Down Under, for better or worse.
In today's Game 4 clincher, Dellavedova played only 17 minutes, and was receiving chants of "DELLY!" from the Cleveland crowd whenever the occasion presented itself. He recorded 10 points, 2 rebounds, an assist and a foul in that time. The sophomore guard made his only three-pointer of the night in the first quarter off a feed from Iman Shumpert, and focused his attack within the arc for most of the night.
The highlight play of Delly's night surprisingly, came off an offensive putback. Hawks guard Dennis Schröder had yanked at Delly's arm, in a futile attempt to deny the rebound. It only made things worse. The whistle was blown, but Dellavedova managed to catch the rebound and lay the ball back with only his other hand, in one fluid motion.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C937ni5C-Gg Offensive rebound plus the and one, all in one handy package. This postseason, Delly has averaged 7.0 points on 36% shooting from the three-point line, while collecting 1.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 turnovers in 21.9 minutes each night. Nothing spectacular, but that's what he is - a hardworking reserve whose work often goes unseen on the box score, but without question a player head coach David Blatt trusts without question, and the trust surely goes both ways.
"We've been through some adversity now, and I think we've really got tighter and tighter as a team. I think we'll rest up, and we'll get ready to go."
The Cavaliers have slogged their way into the Finals, despite not being at 100%. Today's win is but a brief respite, before the real contest begins.
For us fans, the party's not over yet. The Warriors, along with Andrew Bogut will likely be entering the NBA Finals, and along with that comes our second consecutive year with two Australians in the NBA Finals. Stay tuned, as Game 5 of the Warriors-Rockets series approaches.