Two Australians will play against each other in the NBA finals after Golden State and Cleveland won the Western and Eastern Conferences respectively.
This will mark the first time two Australians will play against each other in an NBA finals series. Andrew Bogut’s Golden State Warriors qualified for the best of seven series with a 4-1 win over the Houston Rockets which concluded with a 104-90 victory yesterday. While the Cleveland Cavaliers booked their ticket with a 4-0 win over top-seeded Atlanta Hawks, despite missing stars Kevin Lowe and and Melbourne native Kyrie Irving, they were still able to dominate the series.
Irving’s replacement, Matthew Dellavedova, from country Victoria, stepped up and proved integral to their progression to the finals.
Dellavedova has never been a standout player, but he has been playing efficiently as point guard in Irving’s place.
In the US media, Dellavedova has been a controversial figure during the play-offs. He is being branded as “dirty” and “reckless” after being entangled in clashes with opposition players on multiple occasions, resulting in the ejections of Al Horford, Taj Gibson and, Kyle Korver who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the altercation with Dellavedova.
Lebron James was quick to jump to the Australian’s defence.
“This is the guy that goes on and works his tail off every single night and people are trying to give him a bad wrap and he doesn’t deserve it and I don’t like it,” James said in a press conference.
James will create some history of his own as he will become the first player in NBA history to compete in five consecutive finals with two different teams, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Golden State Warriors were the top seed in the Western Conference and were labelled as favourites for the championship early in the season and finished with 67 wins on the back of a stellar year from Stephen Curry, who was awarded the league MVP, the Warriors will appear in the finals for the first time in 40 years.
The Warriors looked to be on the verge of a series clean sweep, taking a three nil lead against the Houston Rockets. However a strong start and home court advantage, as well as a nasty fall from the warriors Stephen Curry, allowed for Houston to post a win in game four.
A comeback mirroring their Conference semi-finals campaign against the Clippers in which they came back from a three game to one to deficit, was not to be with Warriors closing out the series in game five.
Andrew Bogut, currently Australia’s highest paid sports star, excelled for the Warriors. Now in his 10th season in the league, Bogut has earned himself a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team for the NBA.
Bogut and Dellavedova are the third and fourth Australians to appear in the NBA finals in the last two years, after Patty Mills and Aron Baynes played in San Antonio’s Championship winning side in 2013/14 against Miami. The best of seven series begins on Thursday. – Luke Mahoney
Top photo from Erick Drost’s Flickr