In Matthew Dellavedova, Cavaliers find their best chance

NBA Basketball

For the amount of time it took America to learn how to correctly pronounce his surname, Matthew Dellavedova — dell-ah-veh-DOH-vuh — is quickly making a name for himself in the NBA Finals.

And even though Cleveland's title hopes sit squarely on the broad shoulders of LeBron James, the little-known Australian has proven a capable sidekick, emerging from obscurity to successfully keep in check some of basketball's biggest names long enough for James to do his thing.

MORE: Cavs win Game 2 the ugly way | Must-see Finals photos

He had his best performance yet Sunday. Days after the Cavaliers were left for dead by way of Kyrie Irving's fractured knee cap, Dellavedova held league MVP Stephen Curry to one of the worst shooting games of his career. And it was Dellavedova — not James, who had a triple-double while playing 50:20 — who scored the winning marker, making a pair of clutch free throws to put the Cavs up for good in their 95-93 overtime victory in Game 2.

"Obviously he's a guy that's been counted out his whole life," James said of Dellavedova. "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. The confidence that we have in him allows him to be confident in himself. He goes out and he just plays his tail off, and when a guy like that does that, he gets great results."

Curry was kept to just 19 points, shooting 5 of 23 from the field. He made two of his 15 three-point attempts. His 13 misses (2 of 15) from beyond the arc were an NBA Finals record.

With Irving down, these were Dellavedova's marching orders: Shut down the player unanimously regarded as the best shooter in the game. And he did. W

hile primarily guarded by Dellavedova, Curry shot 0 for 8 from the field with four turnovers. With a 26.1 shooting percentage, it was Curry's worst shooting game this season.

"You know, he did what he has been doing every time that we've put him in that position," said Cavaliers coach David Blatt. "He's a courageous kid that plays right. There was a lot of nonsense swirling around about his style of play. I think anyone that really looks at him objectively and fairly recognizes someone that just plays hard, heartfelt, and tough basketball. Always there for his teammate. And he played big tonight, and we needed him to."

Dellavedova scored nine points with three steals and five rebounds. And when people wondered who would fill Irving's minutes, he played 42:27, second only to James on the Cavaliers' roster. He's been shutting down opposing point guards, albeit in a small sample size, all postseason.

Irving's absence was supposed to cripple the Cavs. But in Dellavedova, the unlikely hero with a catchy name, they've found hope.