During Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, commentator Mike Breen called Matthew Dellavedova, “the most improbable unsung hero in recent postseason memory”.
My initial takeaway from Matthew Dellavedova’s game was nothing more than a halfway solid role player with fair IQ and good toughness. He wasn’t in the way on offense, he was active, understood spacing, didn’t play outside of himself, and most appreciatively, he always went hard. At the very least I knew he could play, but I concluded that he was too inconsistent and probably untrustworthy when it might count most.
And now I’m writing about Matthew Dellavedova during the 2015 NBA Finals. But you know what? That’s the nature of the unsung, and I love what it does for the game — it proves that it doesn’t discriminate; it’s more than just the extraordinary talents, and it rewards those who have the discipline and willingness of guys like Matthew Dellavedova.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry are the main reasons why people are watching these NBA Finals, which were the most watched of any Finals through the first two games. The stars are who people come to watch and want to see dominate, especially kids, who have no desire but to see their favorite players makes lots of dunks and score lots of points. For those same fans, casual observers, kids, and most specifically young players, watching Matthew Dellavedova have this kind of intangible impact on his team in the NBA Finals should only serve as a tone of inspiration. He’s just another rare example of earning his worth by simply working hard and not being the most gifted at anything except giving maximum effort. Those qualities help win basketball games, sometimes just as much as having star talent does.
After the Cavaliers’ 96-91 win in Game 3 they moved to 6-0 in the playoffs when Dellavedova plays 30 minutes or more. He went from scoring 0 points in Game 1 of the Finals, a traditional non-factor, to making some of the most pivotal late plays for the Cavaliers in Games 2 and 3. Dellavedova’s pestering on MVP Stephen Curry in those two games have been a weighing focal point. He got an offensive rebound and hit two free throws to put the Cavs up by 1 with 10 seconds left in overtime of Game 2, and he put up 20 points in Game 3 on Tuesday with a combination of floaters, timely threes, and a huge bank-in runner over Curry that stopped a heady Warriors run and put the Cavaliers up by 4 with 2:27 left in regulation.
Dellavedova is making a lot of pure effort plays, but he’s also making the right basketball plays and attacking opportunities that present themselves when he’s on the floor. Sure, his confidence along with the collective moxie of these Cavaliers is heightened by the presence and experience of LeBron James, but that makes it even more impressive that Dellavedova has earned the trust of the greatest player in the world.
Guys like Derek Fisher, James Posey, Doug Christie, Robert Horry, and others made themselves into glorified unsung basketball heroes. Dellavedova isn’t Kyrie Irving, but what he means to LeBron James could be more along the lines of a Derek Fisher-to-Kobe Bryant, which is just as impactful, and can always be learned from.