The lowdown on our Aussie contenders for a championship ring.
By Grant Richardson
Andrew Bogut- Golden State Warriors
Series Average: 4.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1 steal, 1.3 blocks
Offensively, alley-oops were the order for the series for Bogut. Both his buckets in Game 1 came from the athletic connection as he bamboozled Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the pick-and-roll while almost a third of his total field goals for the series came from the highlight play.
Foul trouble kept the centre from having a true impact on the contest in that first game as he was forced to sit for an extended period in the second quarter before fouling out in the final minute. Luckily, the Warriors defence held strong without him as they cruised to a 101-86 victory.
Despite being a more physical contest in Game 2, Bogut managed to keep out of foul trouble while playing the same amount of minutes and collecting an equal game-high 14 rebounds.
He finished with an efficient 4-5 shooting night but Randolph and Gasol’s combined 35 points helped the Grizzlies to a win as they led for all but ten seconds of the match.
The case for Bogut being the barometer of the Warriors side became more potent in Game 3 as his influence was again negated in a loss. Although his four offensive rebounds was an equal game-high effort, the Aussie finished with just two points on 1-4 shooting as Golden State lost by ten points.
An obviously more determined Warriors team bit back in Game 4, demolishing Memphis 101-84. Bogut’s defence was at its very best, restricting the opposition to an incredible 11% shooting when he was guarding the rim. He also blocked three shots, had a playoff career-best three steals and finished with a game-high +/- of +21.
In a Game 5 blow-out, Bogut was only needed for 23 minutes and was not seen again after being subbed out with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter. However, he made an impression at the offensive end with all three of his field goals coming from alley-oops.
Defensively, he blocked four shots within a period of two and a half minutes as the Warriors went on an 8-0 run to open up a big advantage before half-time while he helped restrict Memphis to 38% shooting in the paint, their worst conversion rate of the season.
Bogut’s prints were all over the Warriors fast start to Game 6, picking up two blocks, a slam dunk and three rebounds in the first seven minutes of court time. That would be his most influential period as a couple of contentious foul calls forced him to sit before he fouled out after 23 minutes.
Golden State got the job done though, clinching the series with a 108-95 victory. Memphis played heavily through Gasol and Randolph and although they combined for 36 points, the two forwards shot just 32% on 37 attempts.
After a slow start, Bogut prevailed in the battle against Memphis’ front court, utilising the fortnight long series to solve their offensive patterns. He is currently the best rim protector left in the playoffs but will again have to do his homework against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets in the Conference Final.
Matthew Dellavedova- Cleveland Cavaliers
Series Average: 8.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists
Although Australia has known it for years, Dellavedova’s toughness was showcased to the world in this series with praise coming from broadcasters, fans and team-mates including LeBron James who called the Boomer “the toughest guy on the team.”
His impact was felt in Game 1, finishing with the best +/- record (+8) in 18 minutes. He scored his first points after just 17 seconds of court time and returned with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter to play out the rest of the match. Despite losing, Dellavedova was praised by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, saying he “puts ball pressure on that you feel.”
Game 2 saw Cavs coach David Blatt’s trust in Delly grow as Cleveland evened the series. The guard played a team-high 36 minutes, knocking down his first three shots to finish with nine points while his nine assists was his second highest tally of the season. James Jones was the main recipient of the Aussie’s superb game, with five of his six field goal makes coming from Dellavedova.
He again made an immediate impact in Game 3, assisting Jones on a three-pointer before knocking down one of his own within the first two minutes of court time. Delly finished with 3-4 shooting for 10 points in 16 minutes, a far more effective match than Kyrie Irving who was labouring with a foot injury.
For the first time in the series, Dellavedova was unable to drain a three-pointer in Game 4 as he finished just 1-3 for two points. However, he made the biggest play of his season when, with 1.5 seconds remaining and the game tied, he in-bounded the ball to James. The four-time MVP did the rest as he got himself enough room in the corner to nail the buzzer-beater and tie the series.
Dellavedova was again caught up in a pivotal moment in Game 5 as Taj Gibson was ejected for kicking the Aussie in the back after the two fell over going for a rebound. Following that play, the Cavs went on a 9-2 run and Dellavedova capped the spurt with a precision lob to Tristan Thompson.
With the possibility of closing out the series in Game 6, Cleveland’s chances took a serious hit when Kyrie Irving tweaked his knee. Subbed out with 9:47 left in the second quarter, the Cavs guard would not be seen again.
However, it sparked an Aussie takeover as Dellavedova shone bright on the biggest stage, top-scoring for Cleveland with 19 points on 7-11 shooting. He played 34 minutes, 32 of which came without a rest as he took control of the game.
Tied at 35 when Irving was subbed out, the Cavs finished the first half on a 23-9 run to take the ascendancy. Delly kept his foot on Chicago’s throat throughout the game, scoring 11 in the final period including a two-minute stretch where he hit a turnaround jumper, knocked the ball away at the defensive end and drained back-to-back three pointers.
He also played on Rose for a majority of the quarter, constantly harassing the 2011 MVP at full-court while holding him to two points on just three attempts.
The performance earned him a spot on the media podium post-game and Cavs fans will be content knowing they are in Dellavedova’s safe hands if Irving continues to be hampered by injuries as they face the likes of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder from the Atlanta Hawks in the East Conference Finals.
Cameron Bairstow- Chicago Bulls
There was no dream-up match between Dellavedova and Bairstow as the Bulls rookie was unable to register any minutes. He will now follow up his debut NBA season by returning to Australia to face New Zealand in the FIBA Oceania Olympic qualifiers on August 15 and 18.