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BEST OF THE BEST: LeBron James and his Cleveland teammates after clinching their NBA championships. Picture: Getty ImagesMatthew Dellavedova didn’t play a second in the NBA title game, but as he stood in the victorious Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room saturated by champagne he did not care at all.
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The point guard from the small Victorian city of Maryborough knew he would always be known as an NBA champion.

Dropped from his regular point guard back-up role for the decider, Dellavedova pointed to the Cavaliers’ team ethic as a big factor after their historic 93-89 away victory in game seven of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Just like the Cavaliers, who became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 1-3 series deficit in the finals to take the franchise’s first title, Dellavedova’s basketball career has been against the odds.

“To come all the way from Australia, then college at St Mary’s and to go undrafted before joining the Cavaliers, it has been an amazing journey,” Dellavedova said.

“Then now be to NBA champions, it’s just a dream come true.”

It was another Australian-born Cavaliers’ point guard, Kyrie Irving, who hit the game winner.

Playing in front of a lion’s den of 19,596 fans inside the Warriors’ Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Irving stepped up and sank a three-pointer to unlock an 89-89 stalemate with 53 seconds left.

“I was just hoping it goes in,” said Irving.

Before the shot both teams had failed to score for almost three tense minutes.

Inspirational Cavaliersleader LeBron James sealed the game with two free throws after he was fouled heavily by Warriors power forward Draymond Green with 10.6 seconds left.

The Warriors, despite boasting two of the NBA’s best shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, did not score in the final four minutes.

The Warriors had just 13 points in the final quarter.

The Cavaliers also appeared to freeze until Irving’s three-pointer.

They scored just 18 points in the last quarter.

Irving finished with 26 points while James had 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds and was the unanimous selection for NBA finals MVP.

James also finally achieved his ultimate goal of not only delivering Cleveland its first NBA title, but the city its first major sporting championship in 52 years.

James, drafted by the Cavaliers in 2003, fled to the Miami Heat in 2010 and won two titles there, but in 2014 returned to Cleveland, a city just 50km away from Akron, where he was born and raised.

“Just knowing what our city has been through, northeast Ohio has been through, as far as our sports and everything for the last 50-plus years,” James said.

“… For us to be able to end this, end this drought, our fans deserve it.”

Dellavedova had been Irving’s back-up during the regular season and until game six of the finals, but Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue opted to use veteran Mo Williams.

Australia’s other representative in the finals, Warriors’ centre Andrew Bogut, also did not play in the finale after suffering a season-ending knee injury in game five.

Green was the Warriors’ best with 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Curry had a disappointing 17 points on 6-19 shooting, including just 4-14 three-pointers while Thompson had 14 points on 6-17, and 2-10 on three-pointers.

It was a disappointing end to the Warriors’ year after claiming an NBA record 73 regular season wins that trumped Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls’ 1995-96 72-win season.

Dellavedova, who was joined in the Cavaliers’ locker room by his parents Mark and Leanne, girlfriend Anna Schroeder and other family members and friends, said he would take a few days off before heading to Australia to join his Boomers teammates ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Plenty more champagne will be shared, and spilt, before then, he said.

“It tastes sweet, very sweet,” said Dellavedova, who, along with his Cavaliers team-mates wore ski goggles to protect their eyes from the champagne spray.

The man known as Delly said it tasted so sweet he wasn’t planning on having a shower.

“I might leave it on for a couple of days,” he laughed.

 

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