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Dellavedova looks back on hospitalization during NBA Finals

Matthew Dellavedova hit the floor 12 times during his gritty performance during Game 3 of the NBA Finals when he scored 20 points. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Holding stat sheets and peeling off suits that had wrinkled under the stress of an NBA Finals game, the Cleveland Cavaliers' coaching staff was in the middle of digesting a miraculous victory when one of the trainers brought the report.

They'd won a battle with Matthew Dellavedova, but there was a sudden concern over the war.

A few rooms away, the Cavs' medical team was aggressively rubbing ice all over Dellavedova's body as team doctors installed an IV into his arm as they tried to pull him out of what had turned into almost a full-body cramp.

"First my quads both cramped. Then my hammies. Then my adductors. I couldn't move off the training table," Dellavedova said as he recently recalled the moments after the Cavs' Game 3 victory over the Golden State Warriors last spring. "I was stuck on the table. I had the IV in and I was still cramping. They helped me to the cold tub and I just collapsed in it for 20 minutes."

The Australian guard's performance during the Cavs' playoff run was inspirational at times. It peaked during Game 3 of the Finals when he scored 20 points to help the Cavs take a 2-1 series lead. He hit the floor nearly a dozen times during that game, chasing loose balls and creating havoc over 39 minutes that ultimately overtaxed him.

When he spilled into the Cavs' bench chasing a ball, Dellavedova leveled one of the trainers, who later tried everything to get his muscles to relent. In the final two minutes, Dellavedova banked in a shot while falling to the court again for a three-point play that changed the outcome of the game. Then he slid across the floor to recover another loose ball that essentially sealed the victory after Stephen Curry, who'd been slowed by Dellavedova's bothersome tactics, lost control.

"He gives us everything until the tank is empty," LeBron James said after he rubbed Dellavedova's head in celebration after the final buzzer. James had scored 40 points but the crowd was chanting "Delly." "He even has a small, little reserve tank."

"I probably pushed it a little. I thought I'd pushed it before but there was just so much on the line. I wasn't scared. What was scary was how am I going to prepare for the next game? I only had one day's rest between the games. I told them I didn't need to go to the hospital, but then I thought to myself 'What would happen if these cramps happened again in the middle of the night?' I would've been screwed." Matthew Dellavedova

But what James didn't know is that reserve was even long gone by then. In the euphoria, it perhaps went unnoticed just what sort of price Dellavedova paid after that Game 3 performance. The Cavs' doctors were concerned enough with the severe cramping that they called for a stretcher and sent him to the Cleveland Clinic for overnight IVs to get him rehydrated. He wasn't released until the following afternoon.

"I probably pushed it a little. I thought I'd pushed it before but there was just so much on the line," Dellavedova said. "I wasn't scared. What was scary was how am I going to prepare for the next game? I only had one day's rest between the games. I told them I didn't need to go to the hospital, but then I thought to myself 'What would happen if these cramps happened again in the middle of the night?' I would've been screwed."

Dellavedova was able to play in Game 4, but he wasn't the same the rest of the series. He shot just 19 percent (5-of-26) and averaged just five points over the final three games. Without question, the Warriors changed their lineup and their game plan to target Dellavedova. Curry increased his aggression level and broke out of a little slump he had earlier in the series, as MVPs do. But there seemed little doubt Dellavedova gassed himself in Game 3 and was never quite the same.

The Cavs, who were without Kyrie Irving by that point, didn't have many other options. James was playing as much point guard as possible ,and Iman Shumpert, who was an option, was dealing with groin and shoulder injuries. J.R. Smith was mired in a slump he couldn't shake.

No excuses were offered, but looking back, the toll seemed rather obvious. Finally by Game 6, coach David Blatt slashed Dellavedova's minutes because it became rather clear he'd come to the end of the line.

"It's not something you're going to bring up in the middle of the series because you don't want to help the other team," Dellavedova said. "There are things that guys probably went through in playoff series that people will never know. It's common in Australian football that you find out a month later a guy was playing with broken ribs. You don't want to complain about it, and you especially don't want to disclose it."

One of the reasons the Cavs went out and added veteran guard Mo Williams over the summer was to try to prevent such a situation from developing again. Williams likely will start in place of Irving, who is still recovering from knee surgery, if needed at the start of the season with Dellavedova serving as a backup.

The NBA also took notice; the league added an extra travel day between games starting with next year's Finals. Last season, the Cavs complained they had a disadvantage because there was less time off when they were on the road. The teams played Game 3 with just one day off after traveling from Oakland, and that may have helped set the stage of Dellavedova's severe dehydration.

"I was just spent," Dellavedova said. "As an athlete, that's all you can really do. There's nothing more I could've physically done."