For the first time in the sport’s history, two Australians will face off against each other with the Larry O’Brien Trophy and a championship ring on the line, as the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors punched their ticket to the big dance today, finishing off the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their Western Conference Finals series to clinch their first Conference Championship in 40 years.
The Warriors were a three man show at the Bay Area Oracle Arena, with guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, along with forward Harrison Barnes all dropping 20+ points a piece, whilst the defence managed to shut down the Rockets’ output in the second and fourth quarters, helping the Warriors sail to a 104-90 victory, sealing the series.
The win means an Australian is now guaranteed to walk away with an NBA Championship ring this season, with Golden State’s Andrew Bogut now set to face off against Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavaliers.
This would make them the 5th Australian to win an NBA championship, and the second consecutive year in which it happens – following on from Paddy Mills and Aron Baynes success with the San Antonio Spurs last year.
Delly and Bogut had vastly different paths to the championship decided. Bogut had a highly acclaimed college career at Utah, where the towering centre won numerous player of the year awards before being taken as the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. A pair of horrific injuries derailed a burgeoning career at the Bucks, and he was ultimately traded to the Warriors in 2012, where his exceptional defence quickly became a cornerstone of the Golden State gameplan.
Conversely, Dellavedova transferred to US college Saint Mary’s, where he became the school’s all-time scoring, assists, games played, free throw percentage, and three-point percentage. Despite this, he went undrafted after nominating for the 2013 Draft, being passed over for a batch of more naturally gifted point guards. Delly’s work ethic shone through, however, and he eventually fought his way on to the Cavaliers roster through the NBA’s Summer League, ultimately fighting his way up the depth chart to the position of backup point guard.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for 11am on Friday, June 5th Australian time, where the Cavs will travel to Oracle Arena to take on the Warriors who have the benefit of home court advantage for the series.
Photo: Gregory Shamus & Ezra Shaw via Getty Images.