Matthew Dellavedova

How Warriors' Steph Curry vanquished his 'stopper' in 2015 NBA Finals

How Warriors' Steph Curry vanquished his 'stopper' in 2015 NBA Finals

For a couple days in June 2015, Matthew Dellavedova’s game was a prominent storyline in the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry made sure it didn’t last.

Dellavedova spent most of that season as a Cavaliers reserve. That changed after the Warriors won Game 1 of The Finals. Cleveland coach David Blatt elevated the second-year guard into the starting lineup for Game 2 with a very specific assignment: Contain Curry, by any means necessary.

The former Saint Mary’s College star responded with 42 minutes of wrestling and grabbing and shoving and bumping Curry, who finished with 19 points, on 5-of-23 shooting from the field, including 2-of-15 from deep.

“Steph Stopper.” That was Delly. The Cavaliers won Game 2 in Oakland and took Game 3 in Cleveland, backing the Warriors into a corner and prompting them to make a significant lineup change of their own.

They replaced 7-foot center Andrew Bogut with 6-foot-7 Andre Iguodala, moving 6-foot-7 Draymond Green to center. They were going small. That was the decisive tactical adjustment that tilted the series toward the Warriors.

Curry, though, had his own move to make. After putting in 22 points as the Warriors rolled to a 21-point victory in Game 4, tying the series at 2-2, it was time to come home for Game 5 -- which NBC Sports Bay Area will re-air Wednesday night at 8 p.m. -- and kill a flawed narrative.

Curry, you see, wasn’t satisfied. He was the league MVP. The Warriors were 39-2 at Oracle Arena and not about to lose and go down 3-2. Dellavedova was in trouble.

Curry carried the team with 37 points, including a dazzling 17-point fourth quarter, to lift the Warriors to a 104-91 victory that gave them a 3-2 series lead.

"Not a lot you can do, honestly,” Blatt said in admiration. “He made some terrific shots."

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With Curry burying, once and forever, the spurious notion of Delly being the “Steph Stopper,” the Cavs went back to Cleveland without legitimate answers to the problems posed by the Warriors’ small lineup in general and by Curry in particular.

To understand the impact Curry had in Game 5, the other four Warriors in the starting lineup -- Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Iguodala and Green -- combined for 50 points on 41 shots.

Curry’s 37 points came on 15-of-23 shooting, including 7-of-13 beyond the arc. No matter how scrappy Dellavedova was, Curry consistently found a way to abuse him. Whether it was nasty crossovers, wicked step-backs or coming off screens, the MVP sent a message that the mere idea of a “Steph Stopper” is pure folly.

"Falling, step-backs off the dribble. I'm OK with that. We're OK with that,” LeBron James said. “You tip your hat to the best shooter in the league."

Curry read the situation and knew it was time for a convincing reply to Dellavedova and the Cavaliers. He knew that even the slightest hint of being neutralized would make the Warriors vulnerable. So, he tortured Delly.

“Those are plays I’ve been making all year,” he said. “And moves I’m confident in.”

The Cavs kept the game tight, taking an 80-79 advantage on a James 3-pointer with 7:47 to play. Curry answered with a triple, giving the Warriors a two-point lead they never relinquished -- mostly because he scored 12 points in the final 3:10.

"We didn't turn it over, we were patient," Thompson said. "And two words: Stephen Curry."

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It was Curry driving the Game 5 triumph and pushing the Warriors to the brink of their first championship in 40 years.

The “Steph Stopper” subplot was cute but not built to last. Curry wasn’t having it then, won’t have it now. That much rang loud and clear in Game 5.

NBA Rumors: Bucks trade for George Hill hours before game vs. Warriors

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NBA Rumors: Bucks trade for George Hill hours before game vs. Warriors

Hours before tip-off against the Warriors on Friday, the Milwaukee Bucks reportedly made a three-team, five-player trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards that will send a longtime Golden State antagonist back to the Cavs. 

Milwaukee will send guard Matthew Dellavedova, big man John Henson, and first- and second-round picks in 2021 to Cleveland in exchange for point guard George Hill and wing Sam Dekker. In turn, Milwaukee will send Dekker to Washington in exchange for veteran big man Jason Smith and a future second-round pick. Additionally, the Cavaliers will send their own 2021 second-round pick to the Wizards for Washington's 2022 second-rounder, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst and The Athletic's Shams Charania.

Both teams were set to play Northern California teams Friday night, with the Cavaliers hosting the Kings and the Bucks hosting the Warriors. 

Hill reportedly expects to take his Bucks physical Monday, according to The Athletic's Joe Vardon, meaning the deal likely won't be announced until then. 

Dellavedova burst on to the NBA scene as a Steph Curry "stopper" in the 2015 Finals, particularly as Cleveland jumped out to a 2-1 series lead despite the absence of stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Of course, that lead didn't last long, as the Warriors rattled off three straight wins en route to their first title in four decades. The Australian guard had a reduced role the following season, averaging 12.1 minutes per game in the playoffs as the Cavs dispatched the Warriors in seven games, and he signed an offer sheet with Milwaukee that summer. 

The deal comes about a week after the Cavaliers dealt sharpshooter Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz, and the dismantling of a team that made four consecutive NBA Finals continues apace. It began with LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, and will probably continue at least until estranged Cavs guard J.R. Smith is traded. 

Until then, Warriors fans will probably have about as much as sympathy as Klay Thompson did when he was reminded of the Cavs' tombstone cookies. 

“Oh, yeah. Ha!” Thompson told The Athletic's Anthony Slater. “That was funny. Look how that turned out. Psssh. Bums. That was crazy. I forgot about that. Well, look at what pettiness gets you. Gets you 1-8 in the Finals. Idiots.”

And, apparently, an utterly unrecognizable roster. 

Counting down top plays of Steph Curry's career before 30th birthday -- No. 5

Counting down top plays of Steph Curry's career before 30th birthday -- No. 5

Programming note: In the lead up to Stephen Curry's 30th birthday on March 14th, we will be unveiling the top plays of his historic career. Check back Sunday for the No. 4...

Top plays of Curry's career: #5 -- Dominating Delly in the 2015 NBA Finals

It’s the 2015 NBA Finals and there are whispers that the Cleveland Cavaliers have a defensive answer to Curry. A Steph Stopper, if you will, in scrappy guard Matthew Dellavedova. Competitor that he is, Curry feels obligated to prove otherwise. He uses a fantastic Game 5, scoring 37 points and torching Dellavedova, to crush that myth.

[RELATED: Counting down top plays of Steph Curry's career before 30th birthday -- No. 6]