CLEVELAND– One of the more maligned and criticized players by fans on the Cavaliers roster had one of the biggest impacts in the Cavs 95-92 playoff-clinching win over the Indiana Pacers in front of a sellout crowd at Quicken Loans Arena.
No, it wasn’t Kevin Love.
It was none other than the player from down under, Matthew Dellavedova.
Dellavedova, who was scoreless in the first half, entered the game for Kyrie Irving with 4:14 to play in the third quarter with the Cavs trailing by two. He hit Timofey Mozgov on a lob pass for a dunk and then hit LeBron James for a lay up.
With 1:49 to play, Dellavedova made a spectacular reverse lay up and a 23- foot triple to bring the Cavs to within one point. He finished the quarter with an assist to James to end the quarter with five points and three assists in 4:14 as the Cavs ended the third quarter tied at 72.
However, it was the start of the fourth quarter when Dellavedova brought the crowd to their feet. Trailing 73-72, Dellavedova pulled up on the left wing and drilled a 26-foot three-point shot to give Cleveland a 75-73 lead.
On the next possession, Iman Shumpert hit him again on the wing and he knocked down the 24-foot shot to push the Cavalier lead to 78-73 with 10:23 to play. After a blocked shot by Shumpert, he found Dellavedova once again and the crowd was ready to erupt, but the ball went around the rim and fell out.
James returned to the game for Dellavedova with 9:37 to play and the crowd roared with approval for the spark Dellavedova provided.
Dellavedova finished with 11 points, all in the second half, including three-of-four from behind the three-point line. He also added five assists in 16:47 minutes of playing time.
"My teammates found me open for the threes and it was good to be able to knock them down," Dellavedova said.
Coach David Blatt praised Dellavedova’s work ethic.
"True story, I came in early to the gym today, about a quarter to nine," Blatt said. "Practice wasn’t until 10 and Matty Dellavedova was out shooting. He was working though and not just standing.
"Working, working, working," he said. "I come to the game tonight, guys got big shots to try and make and he makes them. One plus one equals two, I really believe that."
Dellavedova said that’s all he knows how to do.
"On the court, I just try to put in the work each day and it will eventually pay off."
Irving struggled going just 4-of-16 from the floor and Blatt played Dellavedova the majority of the minutes down the stretch.
"Unbelievable kid, unbelievable work ethic," Blatt said. "Every good thing that happens to that guy, he deserves."
Cavs Clinch: The Cavs win over the Pacers clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth for the first time since LeBron James last played for the Cavs in 2010.
"It’s a huge accomplishment for our team," James said. "For me, I don’t look too far into it. But for our team, for the guys that have never been in the postseason, we have a few guysâlooking around I know Double T (Tristan Thompson), Kev (Kevin Love) and Kyrie (Irving) have never been in the playoffs and I don’t think they should take that for granted and just overlook that. It’s a huge thing for those guys. I’m happy I was able to be a part of their first clinch for the postseason."
"It feels good," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do. I was told out there on the floor when we finished that tonight we had clinched the playoff spot.
"It feels good. I’m sure Ky (Irving) and Delly and Tristan, all those guys said the same thing."
"It’s really exciting to be in the playoffs and am really looking forward to it where every possession counts."
Double Dip: The Cavs win over the Pacers not only secured a playoff berth for the Cavs it evened them up with the Pacers for the season. Cleveland won both games at home and the Pacers did the same, including the last two wins over the Cavs in Indianapolis.
The Pacers are 30-38 in a tie with the Celtics (30-38) and Hornets (29-37) for the 8th seed with the Heat currently at the No. 7 spot (32-36), two games ahead of the three teams battling for the final spot.
The Bucks are currently sixth, but are only ahead of the Heat by 1.5 games.
Cleveland at 45-26 is three games ahead of the Raptors for second place. The Cavs are 26-6 since Jan. 15 when they were 19-20.
LBJ Sick: LeBron James missed the morning shoot around and was a game-time decision. He ended up playing 39:18 and scored a game high of 29 points on 13-of-26 from the field (2-of-6 from three point) with seven rebounds and five assists.
"Throughout the game, my wind wasn’t as I would like it to be when I’m 100 percent," James said. "I was just glad I was able to be out on the floor with my guys to make a few plays to help us win."
Blatt said he didn’t know until game time if James would play.
"He came to play and he did a terrific job."
James scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter to help the Cavs get the win.
"I liked (our offense down the stretch)," David Blatt said. "I thought we did the right things."
James did not start the second half as he was late to the court after scoring nine points in the first half.
Nothing but Love: Kevin Love had another double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Love opened the game’s scoring with a lay up after posting up on a pass down low from Kyrie Irving.
See ya C.J.: Former Cavalier C.J. Miles had an errant three-point shot to try to tie the game as time expired. Miles finished with 8 points, but was just 3-of-10 (1-of-5 from three point).
Streaking: The Cavs won their 15th straight game at home and is the longest since the team won 16 in a row from Feb. 11-April 12, 2009.