The lowdown on our Aussie contenders for a championship ring.
By Grant Richardson
Andrew Bogut- Golden State Warriors
Series Average: 5.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.8 blocks
Game 1: 0 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal
Game 2: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 blocks
Game 3: 12 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
Game 4: 0 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block
Game 5: 0 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Bogut played just 16 minutes in Game 1 with his impact felt more when he was off the court. Subbed out with 5:50 remaining in the first quarter, the Rockets scored 12 points in the paint in the centre’s absence to finish the term on a 19-12 run.
He returned in the second period but lasted less than a minute as two quick fouls forced him to the bench. With Dwight Howard suffering a knee injury, both teams preferred to play “small-ball” which reduced the necessity of Bogut on the court as the Warriors won 102-98.
After admitting he was poor in that first match, Bogut came out with an aggressive mindset in Game 2. He had six of Golden State’s first 17 points before finishing with a playoff-high 14.
A block on Harden mid-way through the final quarter capped a brilliant defensive effort as the centre racked up five blocks for the game. He would not have been pleased with four turnovers but he balanced those mistakes with four assists, including a dime to Andre Iguodala, who threw down a thunderous dunk off the pass.
On court for almost double the amount of court time he saw in Game 1, Bogut’s influence was truly felt in the dying seconds when Houston had a chance to win the game on the final play.
The Rockets decided against calling a time-out, perhaps to avoid allowing Bogut back on the floor. Harden had no time to sum up his options though and the double-team of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson provided enough defence as the Warriors won by a point.
Game 3 saw Bogut once again dominate the first quarter, scoring 10 of the Warriors first 17 points. He connected on an alley-oop from Draymond Green while Howard was helpless against his impressive hook shot.
A couple of unlucky calls kept the Aussie from impacting the game much more in the second half as he fouled out in 20 minutes. He still recorded his first double-double of the series though as Golden State cruised to a 3-0 lead.
Houston delayed the inevitable in Game 4, never looking back after exploding for a 45-point opening term. Bogut hardly looked for his shot although his four assists led to 11 points.
In Game 5, Bogut was the dominant big man at the start with seven rebounds in the first six minutes. He finished with 14 rebounds (five offensive) while playing just 19 minutes.
Complimenting his work at that end of the floor with two blocks at the defensive end, Bogut held Houston to 0-9 shooting when guarding the rim. His second block, on Ariza in the third quarter, came from a brilliant chase-down as the Warriors prevailed to take the series 4-1.
With three scoreless games and just five field goal attempts in those matches, Bogut’s offence was lacking throughout the series. However, Golden State still won two of those clashes and he finished third overall for rebounds and equal first for blocks- two areas in which his expertise is much more required.
His next task, in the NBA Finals, will be to control Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. Bogut’s athleticism and passing will certainly bother the Cleveland front court but their effort on the glass, especially Thompson’s offensive rebounding capabilities, will be the Aussie’s main area of focus.
Matthew Dellavedova- Cleveland Cavaliers
Series Average: 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Game 1: 0 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Game 2: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Game 3: 17 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Game 4: 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Although Dellavedova’s shot was not there in Game 1 (0-5 from the field), coach David Blatt entrusted him down the stretch in favour of Kyrie Irving. Playing the final 8:39, ‘Delly’ helped the Cavs get over the line for the victory despite a strong finish from Atlanta.
With left knee tendinitis keeping Irving out of Game 2, Dellavedova was promoted to the starting line-up. He played 37 minutes, second only to LeBron James, and played a very well-rounded match.
Still battling with his shot, the Aussie also had to contend with foul trouble in the first half as he guarded Jeff Teague. However, coming out of the main break, Dellavedova saw his first three-pointer of the series fall and that was enough for him to regain his form, scoring 11 points.
After top-scoring for his club in Game 1, Teague certainly looked to attack ‘Delly’ in the absence of Irving but his strength and speed kept the Atlanta point guard to just 12 points on 16 shots in a dominant victory for the Cavs.
With Cleveland’s first four points and seven in the opening quarter, Dellavedova again made the most of his starting role in Game 3. He kept Teague to two points in the first term and the Atlanta guard was only able to make an impression on the scoreboard when J.R. Smith was subbed in for the Aussie.
Not for the first time these playoffs, Dellavedova was caught in a scuffle in the second quarter as he got tangled up with Al Horford going for a rebound. Falling onto Horford leg’s as he was dragged down, ‘Delly’ was handed a technical foul but Horford was ejected for his response (in which he purposefully fell and dropped an elbow onto the Boomer).
The exchange fired up the Hawks as they forced overtime. Trailing by three on the final possession, Shelvin Mack had a buzzer-beater attempt but he was well-guarded by the Aussie as Cleveland hung on for the win. Dellavedova finished with 17 points, all of which came before three-quarter time, but it was his defensive pressure that kept him on the court as he once again played the second most amount of minutes (45) for his side.
Irving returned to the starting line-up in Game 4, playing 21 minutes. As he has done his entire career, Dellavedova took the move in his stride, nailing a three-pointer after just 27 seconds of court time.
Quicken Loans Arena burst out with chants of “Delly”, the guard now firmly entrenched as a fan favourite and his final highlight came in the fourth quarter as Cleveland completed the sweep.
With Dennis Schroder literally tugging his arm down in a battle for an offensive rebound, Dellavedova caught the ball and flicked it back up with one hand, sinking the shot and earning himself a three-point play in the process.
Averaging 16 points at 46% shooting for the year, Teague finished with 17 points at 40% for the series. This was in large part thanks to Dellavedova’s defence while he also made Mack (five points per game) and Schroder (who recorded more attempts than points) non-factors.
With more than a week’s break until the NBA Finals, Irving should be permanently back as a starter without restricted minutes but Dellavedova is sure to have an impact, both in the media and on the court.