CLEVELAND, Ohio — By now you’ve seen the video. It’s gone viral. Sorry, Fred McLeod.
In the second quarter of Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Matthew Dellavedova made the kind of play that has turned him into a fan favorite, the one that makes teammate Kevin Love believe a plucky backup point guard who averages 5.9 points in his career will one day have a statue next to LeBron James outside Quicken Loans.
One that had head coach Larry Drew smiling after the game — in part because he backpedaled to avoid disaster.
It’s all fun and games until Delly destroys your notes [?] pic.twitter.com/V3Tce4HBz3
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) December 15, 2018
“I feel kinda bad because I moved out of the way,” Drew said, referring to Cavaliers television play-by-play man McLeod taking the brunt of the collision. “But I know he was trying to save the ball. That’s who he is. That’s why he’s in this league, because he’s still making plays like that. I don’t know what the score was at that point, but it’s a loose ball. I don’t know many guys that would have attempted to save that ball.”
Dellavedova did and it wasn’t a surprise to anyone.
The end result was a saved rebound that deflected off Larry Nance Jr’s hand and nearly went out of bounds.
The hustling Delly crashed into the broadcast table, flinging a pile of notes in the air and bringing McLeod to the ground while the headseat flew off his perfectly quaffed hair. Dellavedova never though twice about throttling down and popped up quickly before getting into an offensive set that ended in a missed 3-pointer.
Sometimes the end result doesn’t matter most in these situations.
“That’s our boy,” Nance said. “That’s the type of thing that endears him to these fans and to us as teammates. You see him doing that and it makes me want to dive on the floor, makes J.C. (Jordan Clarkson) want to dive for loose ball just because you see your teammate giving everything they’ve got. We need more of that.”
In the three minutes that followed that play, the Cavs started to cut into the lead. Cleveland’s bench, which was terrific on Friday night, even closed to within seven at the 5:01 mark — one of the few times in the second quarter the Cavs actually faced a single-digit deficit.
On this night, the Cavs couldn’t keep up with the Bucks. They’re too talented. Giannis Antetokounmpo was unstoppable, matching his career-high with 44 points.
But Cleveland fought all the way to the end. For a rebuilding team, those things matter. Playing hard can’t be a choice. Not this season, not with this talent level. That’s why plays like the one Dellavedova made in the first half go so far.
Dellavdova finished with just 10 points on 4-of-8 from the field. And yet, he was the topic after, pivotal in Cleveland’s late-game comeback effort.
Those are the traits Cleveland is trying to instill in some of the younger players, demanding that they find ways to impact games even when not scoring at a high clip. Impact doesn’t have to be defined by the box score.
Drew admitted after the game that Dellavedova has brought juice to the team, an infectious energy that is starting to spread throughout the locker room.
“When he gets into the game, the energy and the intensity goes up,” Drew said. “You can not only see it, but you can feel it. I certainly can see with some of our other players how it’s rubbing off, and that’s a good sign. We need that second unit to be an energized unit. I know if I put guys in before him, if they’re not energized, I know once he gets in the game the energy is going up and they better be ready and they better be ready to get on board.
“It’s nice having a player like that because you know night in and night out from an energy standpoint that he’s going to bring it. You’re not always going to make shots, I say that all the time, but you can bring energy and you can bring intensity. And I know with him he’s going to bring it every single night. I definitely can see where it’s starting to rub off on some of our guys.”
Dellavedova joked after the game that his shoulder is a bit sore from plowing into McLeod’s “rock-hard abs” and now owes him a nice bottle of wine.
Then, in true Dellavedova fashion, he shined a light back on the other aspects of the game. For Dellavedova, his play is going to run on loop on the highlight-type shows. That doesn’t matter to him. Only the loss does.
“Obviously wanted to get the win and we came up short tonight,” he said. “Just keep working and try to get one Sunday.”