Get to know Matthew Dellavedova. Or re-know him.
The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard is back in the spotlight again, set to take over the starting point guard position after Kyrie Irving re-injured his knee in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Dellavedova has been through the metaphorical-wringer with the Cavs this postseason. He’s replaced Irving in the starting lineup before, drawn a handful of controversial fouls, including several elbows that send opposing players to the locker room, and even missed the Cleveland team bus earlier this week. He took an Uber cab back to the hotel.
Now, with the Cavs looking to rediscover their collective footing after falling to the Golden State Warriors in overtime of Game 1 and losing Irving for the remainder of the season, the pressure is back on Dellavedova. Here’s what you need to know about Cleveland’s polarizing point guard:
1. Some People Are Calling Him a Dirty Player After Drawing Horford’s Elbow in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals
Dellavedova’s latest controversial play came late in the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 3 matchup against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals and caused quite a stir on social media.
The Cavs’ point guard was attempting to box out Horford, who is nearly half a foot taller than him, and Dellavedova seemed to fall into his opponent’s legs before being knocked down or making contact with an elbow. Still, the whistle blew. Horford attempted to argue his case with the referees, accepting responsibility for retaliating but insisting he was baited into the play.
All three refs were unanimous on the call however, and Horford was whistled for a flagrant two, earning him an ejection. Dellavedova earned a technical of his own for making contact with Horford’s knees but was not ejected from the game.
This was the Hawks’ official Twitter reaction to the call:
The early-game call turned out to have a major impact on the game, keeping the 6-foot-10 Horford, who has been averaging 15.2 points a game this season, sidelined as the Hawks forced the game into overtime. Cleveland ultimately pulled off a 114-111 victory and jumped out to a three-game lead in the series.
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2. He Also Drew Criticism For a Play Against Chicago’s Taj Gibson in the Second Round
Sunday night was not the first time Dellavedova has stirred the foul-calling pot. In fact, it wasn’t even the first time this postseason he’s been part of a call that saw an opposing player ejected from the game.
Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson was ejected from Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals after knocking Dellavedova to the court and kicking him in the fourth quarter. It was, once again, a controversial play that, upon a closer look, seemed to find Dellavedova almost baiting his opponent.
Here, the Cavs point guard seemed to get his own legs wrapped around Gibson, essentially causing the foul himself. Even Dellavedova’s teammate J.R. Smith thought the play was less-than-sportsmanlike.
Gibson, who was starting in place of the injured Paul Gasol, was ejected with 10:25 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cavs went on to win the game 101-106.
3. LeBron James Has Been Quick to Defend Dellavedova
Although J.R. Smith has copped to, sometimes, questioning Dellavedova’s on-court decisions, LeBron James has consistently defended his teammate’s actions throughout the postseason.The Cavs’ on-court leader has been quoted a handful of times praising Dellavedova’s play and his physicality.
James told the Associated Press on Sunday night:
We’re not trying to get people hurt. But you play to win the game and you play aggressively. This guy, he works his tails off every single day. He beats the odds and he comes to play as hard as he can every single night. If they’re focusing on Delly, they’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Of course, it’s easy for James to defend Dellavedova when the Cavs are winning.
All three of Dellavedova’s questionable plays, including an earlier moment in the Eastern Finals that saw Atlanta’s Kyle Korver go down with a season-ending ankle injury, have come in games that Cleveland has also won. James, meanwhile, continues to be phenomenal. He had his first triple-double of the postseason in Game 3 and played through late-game craps to lead his team to an OT victory.
4. He’s Had an Offensive Explosion Since the Chicago Series
Dellavedova didn’t exactly have a dominant regular season with the Cavs this year. He averaged just 4.8 points per game this season and not many people gave the undrafted player a second look when they noticed his name on the box score.
Then, the postseason happened and, suddenly, Dellavedova was a very real scoring threat.
His coming out party came in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Bulls, a game after the Gibson incident, when he led the Cavs with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-6 from behind the three-point line.
It was an almost improbable performance. According to NBC Sports’ Pro Basketball Talk, none of the 134 players to lead a team in scoring this postseason scored fewer points in the regular season than Dellavedova.
For the most part, he’s kept the scoring up. In the last two games against the Hawks, Dellavedova finished with 11 and 17 points and connected on a combined six shots from behind the arc. Ultimately, that’s where he’s the most potent; from distance. Dellavedova is averaging 40.7 percent from three-point range this year.
5. He’s in His 2nd NBA Season After Playing in Australia & at Saint Mary’s College
The 24-year-old Dellavedova was born in Australia and started playing basketball at early age, including a stint at the South East Australian Basketball League.
He came stateside in 2009 after being recruited by Saint Mary’s College of California where he earned a spot in the starting lineup immediately. He finished his college career as Saint Mary’s all-time leader in scoring, assists, games played, free throw percentage and three-point shots. He was also part of the Saint Mary’s squad that knocked out second-seeded Villanova in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Despite the strong collegiate career, Dellavedova didn’t attract much attention from the NBA and he went undrafted in 2013, ultimately joining the Cavs’ summer league team that year. He averaged 2.8 points and three assists in five summer league games. His performance was enough to garner a contract though and, on September 12, 2013, he signed a two-year $1.3 million contract with Cleveland.
He was selected to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge as part of All-Star Weekend this year.