CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova has embraced every challenge thrown at him since joining the team as an undrafted free agent this past summer.
And when the Cavaliers took on the second-best team in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena, Dellavedova's challenge came in the form of defending against forward Kevin Durant, a likely candidate for this year's NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
Although Durant scored 35 points in the 102-95 win over the Cavaliers, Dellavedova made him work for every point, which was no easy task. After Thursday's game, Durant has scored at least 25 points in 33 straight games, which is the longest streak in the NBA since Hall of Fame guard Michael Jordan had a string of 40 straight contests with at least 25 in the 1986-87 season.
"I thought Delly did a great job coming off the bench and getting a double-double for us," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said following the loss. "Obviously, he played hard. We had to throw him out there early against Kevin Durant, and nobody's stopping Kevin Durant, but I thought he fought his behind off and our team did a decent job of trying to help support him when it came to defending Durant early in the game."
According to Brown, the 6-foot-4 Dellavedova challenged Durant to involve his teammates, despite having a nearly six-inch height advantage over the scrappy Cavalier from Maryborough, Victoria, Australia.
"You go to double-team him, you go to help, and he's right over the top of the defense," Brown said. "It's similar to LeBron. You go to help, you go to double-team, and those guys are so big and they're such gifted passers and willing passers on top of that, sometimes, you think they get more excited when they make a pass and their teammate makes a play than when they score a bucket."
Despite hustling after Durant on the defensive end of the floor, Dellavedova was able to score 11 points on four-of-eight shooting and hand out a career-high 10 assists in the game.
"The one thing Delly's going to do, for sure, is fight," Brown said. "He's going to get up in your chest. He's going to bother you. He's going to show his hands, so he's not going to foul you. He's going to make you work for your points, so I felt confident that was going to happen. I knew Delly was going to fight, and that's exactly what he did."