By Frank McLean
The gamesmanship has started in the Toronto Raptors-Milwaukee Bucks series and it only took one game. Scrappy Matthew Dellavedova has been getting on the Raptors nerves.
The fact that the Bucks, who experts kept telling us should be swept four straight games, beat Toronto 97-83 would be enough. But now it’s Dellavedova and the illegal screens was he was allegedly running to set up Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This is why Dellavadova has a job in the NBA, his ability to set screens to let scorers do their things. This is what he did in Cleveland the first three years of his career, setting screens to make it easier for LeBron James.
It’s not for his offensive skills, he only averaged 7.6 points a game for the Bucks during the regular season, what he brought to a young developing team is his tough physical grinding game.
The Cavaliers sure miss him. James was complaining that the Cavaliers needed a playmaker. The problem was the guy he needed was traded to Milwaukee in the off season in a sign and trade for the draft right to Albert Miralles.
In Toronto on Monday at practice the Raptors let it be known that he was running some illegal screens in game one.
“He did set 18-screens and we did look at them,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was saying during his daily session with the media. “A lot of them weren’t legal.
“Now we’ve got to make sure we counter that and make the officials make a decision. The officials were saying that we’re not hitting (the screens) or running into them. We’ve got to make sure we have a confrontation, because he’s one of the great screen-setters in the league, just like John Stockton was. There’s no disrespect by saying that.
“It’s a respect factor for Dellavedova that he does set hellacious screens. You look at them in slow time, and believe me, they’re moving, they’re grabbing, they’re holding. He has set a precedent with it and they’re not calling it. We’ve got to make sure we set screens the same way, and now we show the officials those videos.
“It’s a credit to him that he sets screens that way and gets away with it.”
Meanwhile back in Milwaukee the Bucks were working out before they boarded their plane to head to Toronto for Tuesday’s game. Dellavedova spoke about an hour before Casey made his comments in Toronto. He talked about how it’s all about playing physical in the playoffs.
“I think in the playoffs, my game is suited to that,” Dellavedova said. “Where there’s a lot on the line, it’s going to be even more physical. If you want to win, you’ve got to put your body on the line.”
Dellavedova, who is from Australia, said the type of game he plays is typical of what you see all the time in international basketball.
“Internationally the game is a lot more physical,” Dellavedova added. “The way they set screens, if you go under a screen internationally, the big man is going to roll you down in to the paint, so you really can’t go under any screens. Often times when I go back and play with Australians in the summertime, it’s a lot more physical.
“All people set illegal screens in the NBA. If you follow it to the letter of the law, the rule is that your feet have to be inside your shoulders. I mean big men are always kind of setting it wide. That’s just how it is.
“You have to be smart and adjust to what the refs are calling.”
Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, who was as a tough a guard to ever play in the NBA, admires his small 6’4 guard.
“It’s tough when you have a small, a point guard, that sets screens, as many as he sets in a game,” Kidd said. “He knows he’s going to get hit, being able to absorb that hit and he does it a lot. It can wear on you, but I think he’s someone who can take a hit. He understands sacrifice and his teammates appreciate that.”
We don’t know yet who the NBA will assign to referee game two. It will be interesting to see who they are and will they be paying attention to possible illegal screens.
The mind games have started, we got ourselves a series.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.