The Delly Effect: Cavs two wins away from NBA title against Warriors

Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers lead the Golden State Warriors 2-1 in the NBA Finals. The point guard has quickly become a fan favorite.
Publish date:

CLEVELAND—Kyrie Irving needed crutches to walk into Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday, because Matthew Dellavedova has not healed him yet. You can understand why. Dellavedova has been busy carrying the undermanned Cavaliers to a 2-1 series lead over the Warriors.

Dellavedova spent Tuesday night being treated for cramps at the Cleveland Clinic, but he is expected to recover heroically in time for Game 4, where he will show up heroically and walk onto the floor heroically. Delly scored 20 points in Game 3, and his defense on Stephen Curry has been so impressive that Curry is even missing shots when Dellavedova is nowhere near him. That’s the Delly Difference.

I, for one, hope LeBron James makes a few plays in the next two games to help Dellavedova finally win his long-awaited first NBA title. James was asked Wednesday if Dellavedova should be knighted in Australia, a good question since James knows nothing about the topic whatsoever, and James said if that’s good for Dellavedova, “I'm all for it.”

Unlikely LeBron-Dellavedova duo fuels Cavs' 2-1 lead in unpredictable Finals

James is not the only member of Dellavedova’s supporting cast helping him out. Tristan Thompson has shown a little of that Delly grit himself, grabbing rebounds and defending relentlessly, and arguably providing a much greater impact than Delly, but anyway back to Delly.

Critics will point out that Dellavedova only played nine minutes in Game 1, scored just nine points in Game 2, and is shooting 10 for 27 in the Finals. My response to that is: “Delly! Delly! Delly!” As Golden State’s Draymond Green said, his team is losing because of intensity. The Cavaliers have more.

• MORE NBA: Game 3 preview | Highlights | Playoff coverage | Schedule

“If you tally up the 50-50 balls in this series, they’ve probably gotten 85% of them,” said Green, which means the Cavs have grabbed 70% of their 50-50 balls, unless my math is off, which it probably is. “It’s impossible to win that way. So in order for that to come out of this team, it has to come out of me. That’s what I’ve been for this team the entire year. That falls on my shoulders.”

And who is doing this dirty work for Cleveland? Need you ask? As Green said: “Who dove on the floor? Dellevadova. Who dove on the floor for that loose ball? Dellavedova. (Who is the most handsome man in the world? Dellavedova.)”

For Warriors' Draymond Green, each possession vs. Cavs defense is a test

Green said if the Warriors play harder, “That cuts out over 50% of the problems we’ve had.” But what if Delly plays harder? As Cleveland coach David Blatt said Tuesday, “Delly’s the most Cleveland-like Australian I’ve ever met in my life. If you’re from Cleveland, you know what I’m talking about.”

I’m not from Cleveland, but I think Blatt is referring to the fact that every single person in the crowd at Game 3 grew up in a working-class home, because nobody in Cleveland ever came from money, unlike people in, say, Los Angeles, who were all paid $2 million just to be born, and have never worked hard in their lives. They just surf all day.


​Cleveland was named after Moses Cleaveland, who was born and raised in Connecticut and made it all the way to Ohio, where he founded Cleveland, though he was too tired to spell it properly. That was in 1796, and I think we can agree: ol’ Mo had a nice run. Two more wins, and this is Dellavedova, Ohio. Spell it however you want, America. Everybody here will be too drunk to care anyway.

No hyperbole: LeBron James on brink of greatest Finals performance ever

Delly-mania is hitting Cleveland right in the heart. Specifically: the arteries. One arena concession stand is selling the Delly Burger, which features salami, capicolla, provolone, roasted peppers, gritty arugula and extremely tough red wine vinaigrette. The sign for the Delly Burger even suggests a hashtag, #DellyBurger, for those who want to tweet about an in-arena concession item, as so many of us do.

We should not be surprised by what Dellavedova is doing. He has been training for this moment for years, ever since he posed for a few weeks one winter as a gentleman from Harvard named “Jeremy Lin."  Cleveland teammate J.R. Smith said before he arrived in Cleveland, he would see Dellavedova on the upcoming schedule and know he was in for a tough matchup.

• MORE NBA: Dellavedova memes | Delly low blow? | Curry's struggles

“I hated playing against him,” Smith said, which may explain why he did it so rarely. Dellavedova only played more than 10 minutes in a game against Smith’s team twice. Is it possible Smith’s memory is fuzzy, or he is overstating his fear? Delly! Delly! Delly!

The unlikeliest postseason storyline? Dellavedova's Finals-saving showing

Delly has a few odd nicknames, like Margin for Error; as teammate James Jones said, “We have a very small Margin for Error.” He is also sometimes known by his Russian name, Pistov, which explains why Green kept talking about being “a little Pistov,” which would certainly help the Warriors.

Golden State better figure something out. Thompson said this series is “a boxing match,” which leaves me hopeful that when Dellavedova is done, he can do something about Floyd Mayweather Jr.

In the meantime, the Cavs are two games away from history. They just need to keep the right mental approach.

“LeBron tells us, ‘Take a deep breath,’” Thompson said.

LeBron? Which one was he, again?

GALLERY: Sports Illustrated's best photos from Game 3 of NBA Finals