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."
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."
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.