Sport Basketball This week’s NBA playoffs could be the last chance to see an Aussie hoopster
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This week’s NBA playoffs could be the last chance to see an Aussie hoopster

matthewdellavedovamilwaukee
Matthew Dellavedova now plays for Milwaukee. Photo: Getty
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For the past three years, the NBA Championship team has featured an Aussie.

Last year, it was Matthew Dellavedova with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the year before Andrew Bogut as part of the Golden State Warriors juggernaut, while in 2014 the San Antonio Spurs featured Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.

Mills is the only one still with the same team and, while no one would completely count out the Spurs doing it again, they face an uphill battle to get past the Warriors just to win the Western Conference Championship.

It means more Aussie success is unlikely – and that’s why you should be watching closely over the coming days, before it’s too late.

Where are the Aussies?

Despite the retirement of superstar Tim Duncan at the end of last season, Mills and the Spurs still won 61 of 82 games to finish second in the Western Conference, six wins behind the Warriors.

Mills comes off the bench as back-up to future Hall of Fame guard Tony Parker, but it’s often the Aussie sharpshooter running the show and hitting big three-pointers when the game is on the line.

Finishing fifth in the Western Conference, with a 51-31 win-loss record, were the Utah Jazz, where Aussie pair Joe Ingles and Dante Exum have made solid contributions.

At one stage, well into the season, Ingles led the NBA in three-point shooting at better than 50 per cent, and they will also play finals.

Another team with two Aussies, the Milwaukee Bucks, finished sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Dellavedova was lured to the Bucks on a lucrative deal after his success with the Cavs and was joined by top-10 draft pick Thon Maker, who looks a star of the future.

How far will they get?

The Spurs, led by the freakishly talented Kawhi Leonard, should make it all the way to the Conference Finals – essentially the NBA’s semi-finals going by the format used in the AFL and the NRL.

They would then need everything to go their way to beat the Warriors and reach the Finals themselves.

Mills and his teammates start with a best-of-seven-match series against the Memphis Grizzlies, who they should beat without too much trouble.

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Ingles (L) and Exum give Utah an Aussie flavour. Photo: Getty

The Jazz begin against the experienced LA Clippers, who finished with an identical win-loss record, so it’s a real toss-up as to who wins their battle – also played as a best-of-seven-match series, as all NBA Finals are.

The Clippers, led by star point guard Chris Paul and big man Blake Griffin, will be favourites but Utah fans – thrilled already with their season – still have hope.

Meanwhile, the Bucks are a team of the future and are unlikely to get past the Toronto Raptors in their first-round series, but will benefit from the experience.

Who will win the NBA Finals?

Many people have been looking forward to a Warriors-Cavs Finals since last year, when the Cavs came back from 1-3 down to claim a drought-breaking first title in a seventh-game thriller.

The Warriors had beaten the Cavs the year before so it’s now one apiece and anyone’s guess how round three would pan out.

The Spurs will be looking to play spoiler, as will the Boston Celtics, the most successful franchise in NBA history with 17 titles.

The Celtics came from nowhere to pip the Cavs for top spot in the east, behind the incredible talent of guard Isaiah Thomas, who stands just 175 cm but is fearless in the land of the giants.

But even with Thomas on board, it looks like a Cavs-Warriors repeat in the Finals.

And I’m going with LeBron James and Cleveland to win yet another championship.

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