The lowdown on our Aussie contenders for a championship ring.
By Grant Richardson
Andrew Bogut – Golden State Warriors
Series Average: 6 points, 9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2 blocks
An alley-oop from Klay Thompson was Bogut’s introduction to the series as he brought the Oracle Arena to its feet just 3:20 into Game 1.
Alongside Draymond Green, the Warriors front court made life as tough as possible for Anthony Davis while Omer Asik (two points, nine rebounds) was totally out-played by the Aussie (12 and 14 with four offensive boards- both games highs) as Golden State won by seven.
Bogut’s focus wasn’t on netting points in Game 2 but his 14 rebounds was again a game-high while another four offensive rebounds was a team-best.
After the Pelicans moved within one point with 5:34 remaining, Golden State ended the game on a 12-3 run to win. In that period, Bogut grabbed six boards and put an exclamation on the impressive finish with a two-handed dunk to seal the match.
He helped the Warriors to another strong start in Game 3 but his substitution saw New Orleans go on a run and by the time he returned, Golden State trailed by 12.
Steph Curry’s fourth-quarter heroics eventually gave the Warriors a miracle comeback win in overtime but a brilliant defensive sequence from Bogut in the final 15 seconds of the extra period saw Davis’ game-tying attempt miss badly.
Foul trouble restricted the Aussie from making too much of an impact in Game 4 as his side completed the sweep. However, he did make his presence known in the third quarter when he blocked three shots in a span of two minutes.
For the first time in his Warriors career, Bogut has been uninterrupted in his preparation for the playoffs. Facing Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies next round will be a further test for one of the best rim protectors in the league.
Patty Mills – San Antonio Spurs
Series Average: 10 points, 2.3 rebounds
Following shoulder surgery, Patty Mills struggled to find his shooting stroke through 51 regular season games and saw his position as back-up point guard taken over by Cory Joseph. However, Mills proved once again that the spotlight brings the best out in him as he shot 16-28 (57%) from the three-point line to regain his position from Joseph.
After just 12 seconds of court time in Game 1, Mills nailed his first three-pointer. Coach Gregg Popovich only played him for 10 minutes but another two threes in the final term proved he could be the spark off the bench that he was in the 2014 Finals.
Mills showcased his trademark harassing defence in Game 2 and then hit consecutive three-pointers in the space of 32 seconds to turn a one-point deficit into a three-point lead by three-quarter time.
With an ankle injury keeping Tony Parker out of the game, Mills played the final five minutes of regulation and sunk two clutch free throws with 8.6 seconds left that eventually took the game into overtime.
He then proved unstoppable in the extra period, recording eight of San Antonio’s 17 points to finish with 18 for the game. He was perfect from the charity stripe, sinking another four free throws in the final 11 seconds to seal the match.
With his position as back-up point guard firmly reinstated, Mills helped the Spurs dismantle the Clippers in Game 3. He again brought the energy in Game 4, tallying 10 points and a steal in his first six minute stretch before playing in the fourth quarter alongside Parker.
Mills was an x-factor in a pivotal Game 5, entering the play with the Spurs down by 12 in the opening quarter. His first three sparked a 19-3 run and after he connected on a four point play, the Aussie guard had 13 points and the Spurs had all the momentum as they went on to win a thriller.
The Clippers finally recognised Mills as a danger in Game 6, holding him to just two field goal attempts in 18 minutes. He added five points and three assists with Popovich favouring him over Parker in the final nail-biting two minutes.
In the decider, Mills again hit his first three-point attempt before another triple at the start of the fourth quarter gave the Spurs the lead. However, he played just 15 total minutes and was not spotted in the last eight minutes as the Spurs were ousted on a heart-breaking final second shot from Chris Paul.
Mills finished the series with the fifth-best scoring average for the team despite playing the ninth most amount of minutes. He hit a perfect 13-13 from the free throw line and balanced his five turnovers with eight assists.
Aron Baynes – San Antonio Spurs
Series Average: 1.3 points, 1.4 rebounds
Unfortunately for Baynes, being on the end of a couple of highlight dunks from Blake Griffin is how Game 1 against the Clippers will be remembered.
His match started well, making a three-point play on a one-handed dunk. He collected five rebounds (two offensive) and although he competed gallantly against Jordan and Griffin, the Clippers front court eventually proved too strong.
A sprained ankle from Game 1 capped off a disappointing start for Baynes but he was able to return in Game 3 to play seven minutes of garbage time as the Spurs blew away the Clippers. He showed his range with an 18-foot jumper and ran the floor well for four points and three boards.
After just 49 seconds in Game 4, Baynes played his first minutes outside the fourth quarter since Game 1 as the series returned to Los Angeles. He was rotated on and off for Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw as both came into foul trouble.
However, when the strategy of intentionally fouling Jordan began, the Aussie forward found himself fouled out after 12 minutes of play. Popovich then chose not to play him in Game 6 or 7, putting a premature end to a promising season from the forward.
Matthew Dellavedova – Cleveland Cavaliers
Series Average: 2.5 points, 1 rebound, 1.5 assists
Stats very rarely tell the whole story for Dellavedova as his main role is to maintain the energy and intensity with Kyrie Irving off the floor. With more responsibility on the shoulders of Irving, Delly’s minutes have dropped from 21 to 11 in the playoffs but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t impacted the series.
In nine minutes in Game 1, Delly was +10 with three assists. His only score resulted from a finger roll at the ring after a nifty spin move on Jae Crowder.
He then nailed a triple of his own in Game 2 on a pull-up jumper (with a little help from a friendly rim). The guard was unable to find the roll when the series moved to Boston though, shooting a combined 1-9 from the field and missing two free throws as Cleveland swept the series.
In combination with Irving, Dellavedova’s defence kept the tandem of Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas relatively quiet. The Boston guards both reached double figures just once with Bradley’s best game coming when Thomas scored only five points in Game 3.
After being chased all over the floor by the lightning-quick Irving, Dellavedova’s pesky defence ensures opposing point guards never get a rest. He will next face Derrick Rose, Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich as Cleveland battles Chicago in the Conference Semi-Finals.
Cameron Bairstow – Chicago Bulls
Although he wasn’t required through the first six games of the post-season, Bairstow is one series closer to becoming the fifth Australian to win an NBA Championship after the Bulls defeated the Bucks. If he can record minutes in the Conference Semi-Final against Cleveland, we could see a dream match-up between him and Boomers teammate Dellavedova.