Australia’s Matthew Dellavedova had to watch from the bench as his Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship, becoming the first team to come back from 3-1 down in the Finals series.
The Cavaliers won a thrilling game seven 93-89 at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on Monday (AEST) to win the series 4-3.
“It’s just awesome,” Dellavedova told AAP.
“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.
“Then now be to NBA champions, it’s just a dream come true.”
Dellavedova played minutes in the first six games of the series, which were all blowouts, but he did not get on court in a finale that was fitting of a title game.
The lead see-sawed in the final quarter until the scores remained locked at 89-89 with both teams unable to score for almost three minutes before the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving hit a three-pointer with 53.1 seconds left.
LeBron James sealed the championship with a free throw after a hard foul from the Warriors’ Draymond Green. James, named the Finals MVP, shot 27 points and had 11 rebounds.
Kyrie Irving was also instrumental, with 26 points for the victors.
Green was Golden State’s best player, with 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
But Stephen Curry (17 points) and Klay Thompson (14 points) both struggled to make their usual impact.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue opted to go with veteran Mo Williams as back-up point guard to Irving, instead of Dellavedova, while the Warriors’ Australian centre Andrew Bogut was also missing after his season-ending knee injury in game five.
It is the third straight year an Australian has claimed an NBA championship ring, with Bogut winning one last year with the Warriors and Patty Mills and Aron Baynes victorious with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014.
It was a tough way to end a great season for the Warriors who were defending the title and had set a 73-win, nine-loss regular season record, breaking the mark set by Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
The Warriors pounced on the Cavaliers early, dropping 10 three-pointers in the first half, with Draymond Green scoring 22 of his 28 points in the period.
The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 27-19 in the second quarter to take a 49-42 halftime lead.
The Cavaliers came out of the break inspired and took a 70-63 lead with three minutes left in third quarter, but the Warriors fought back to go into the final quarter up 76-75.
The lead see-sawed in the final quarter with James attempting to lead the Cavaliers to their first title, while Curry and Thompson dropped long bombs for Golden State.
But after a tense scoreless period, Irving and, fittingly, James, stepped up to give Cleveland victory.