Matthew Dellavedova — the Australian guard with the cute nickname who’s spent the playoffs diving at guys’ knees and ankles — locked arms with Draymond Green and dragged him to the floor as Stephen Curry made a three.
It was a move that earned fouls for both Dellavedova and Green. It was also similar to the move Kelly Olynyk pulled that ended Kevin Love’s season. Dellavedova’s stunt sent the Warriors forward into a rage that required calming by Golden State’s resident Aussie, Andrew Bogut.
“I was a little angry at what took place. I mean, I’m really not going to get into it,” Green said.
“I thought something went on with the play … We’ve got one more game, hopefully, to try to close this series out, and that’s my focus. I’m not really going to worry about that play that happened in the second quarter, although I was upset when it happened.”
It doesn’t take a huge leap to figure Green wasn’t just “upset” (translation: nuclear) due to that one play in its own. Dellavedova also targeted Green’s knees from behind in Game 3. That play was sparked by a particularly hard screen set by Green, which was followed by Dellavedova’s retaliatory dive. That was Dellavedova’s best game of the series, as he scored 20 points and led the Cavs at +13 on the night. It led to a perception held by some that Delly was getting the best of Curry.
“People were saying that. I never really got off into it. You know maybe Steph had an off game or two. That’s basketball,” Green said last night.
“I’m taking Steph in any matchup. So (Dellavedova) was hounding and physical, dirty, it’s a fine line, whatever you want to call it. He do what he do. But I was going with Steph no matter what, and I’m still rolling with Steph no matter what.”
Green’s comments came after Curry took over with a 17-point fourth quarter when Game 5 and the series was in the balance. While he isn’t anywhere near as demonstrative or vocal as Green, Curry’s expression after his best ballhandling+three exhibition over Dellavedova spoke volumes.
Curry scored 12 points in the last 3:10, starting with a layup which came after he split two defenders (Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson) before he made two spectacular threes.
On the first, he dribbled right, went behind his back as he moved left, shoulder-faked to his left to get Dellavedova leaning, crossed over to his right and shot a high-arcing three. Dellavedova’s right hand made contact with Curry’s right after his release, but it didn’t matter. Klay Thompson watched from the corner, about eight feet away, and had a ridiculous grin from the moment the ball was in the air.
“Two words: Stephen Curry. The show he put on was unbelievable,” Klay said. “Step-backs, threes, everything. It was beautiful to watch and he really pulled us through tonight.”
On the second, after an exhausted-looking Dellavedova bricked a three, Curry lulled the Cavs to sleep. With less than 90 seconds remaining and from more than 30 feet away, Curry mock-lazily dribbled toward halfcourt, then turned and casually tossed a 29-footer — like someone warming up in a gym all alone — before Delladova could finalize his switch from Green to Curry.
Dellavedova’s defense wasn’t bad overall, especially off the ball. In fact, it’s been quite good throughout the series compared to most point guards Curry has faced this season. However, similar to how Dellavedova’s been able to agitate but not injure Green, he’s been able to stay close to Curry but not bottle him up entirely. That’s why, for all the talk about Dellavedova’s effectiveness as a defender, the Warriors weren’t concerned because they knew they’d see Curry explode like this at some point.
“The interesting thing is we haven’t had many discussions about it. We said we know who Steph Curry is,” said Andre Iguodala.
Curry didn’t describe his battles with Cleveland’s replacement for Kyrie Irving. In fact, he didn’t mention Dellavedova by name at all after last night’s game. His performance — 37 points, 17 points on seven shots in the fourth quarter, enough highlight plays to fill an entire episode of SportsNet Central — along with that look, spoke volumes about his matchup against a player whose 15 minutes may be ticking down.