WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS: Matthew Dellavedova has emerged as the surprise star in this season’s NBA finals.
WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS: Matthew Dellavedova has emerged as the surprise star in this season’s NBA finals. Jason Millergetty IMAGES

Dellavedova's NBA success puts spotlight on battler town

SITUATED 58km north of Ballarat, the town of Maryborough has regularly been ranked the most disadvantaged in Victoria.

When American writer Mark Twain passed through in 1895, he described it as "a railway station with a town attached".

Now it seems everyone wants to know more about Maryborough, thanks to the heroic deeds of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova who was born in the town's hospital on September 8, 1990.

The quintessential Aussie battler has emerged as the big story in this season's NBA finals, scrapping and shooting his way to cult hero status as Cleveland, led by superstar LeBron James, tries to win its first title.

The team leads Golden State 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, and will host game four this morning.

And the role Dellavedova has played cannot be underestimated.

Overlooked in the 2013 NBA draft after a record-breaking US college career with St Mary's where he became the all-time leader in scoring, assists, games played, free throw percentage and three-point shots, the 2012 London Olympian was given the chance to play summer ball with Cleveland.

He did enough to earn a two-year contract worth the minimum $A1.7 million, with no one at the franchise expecting him to become such a pivotal part of the team's title campaign this season.

The Cavs had been among the also-rans after James left for Miami at the start of the 2010-11 season, a move described by Cleveland's majority owner Dan Gilbert in an open letter to fans as "selfish", "heartless", "callous" and a "cowardly betrayal".

But all was forgiven when the dual title winner with the Heat announced he was heading back to the city after the 2013-14 season, with the team quickly trying to work out what was needed to complete a roster capable of the ultimate success.

It already had Australian-born guard Kyrie Irving, and the addition of Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves suddenly put the Cavs among the genuine contenders for 2014-15.

James led the way as Cleveland won through to the finals against Golden State, but with Irving and Love both sidelined by injury, Dellavedova has emerged as the accidental hero.

Given the task of shutting down Golden State's star shooter Steph Curry in game two after Irving fractured his kneecap in the series opener, the Aussie kept the league's MVP to just 19 points as the Cavs levelled the series with a 95-93 overtime victory.

Then in game three, Dellavedova took the story to a whole new level, finishing with 20 points and keeping Curry to just three in the first half as Cleveland ran out 96-91 winners.

Such was the 24-year-old's effort, he was taken to hospital after the match, suffering from severe cramps, later saying: "I've felt like I've pushed the limit a few times, but that's probably the tiredest I've been."

But in great news for his teammates, and legion of growing fans - his merchandise was the biggest seller across the US during and after game three - Dellavedova added "I'm feeling good now though".

That's probably not what Curry wanted to hear as the Warriors star tries to work out how to shake off the man whose rags-to-riches story has captured the imagination of sports fans around the globe, and everybody in Maryborough.



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