CLEVELAND — Matthew Dellavedova would not offer much insight into the play that produced the most spectacular of his 11 assists Thursday night, even though recipient Cedi Osman had already disclosed the Cavaliers run it at least once every game.

“I don’t want to give away the scouting report, but yeah, he’s a good cutter,” Dellavedova said of Osman’s layup in the fourth quarter of a 111-98 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns.

Osman believed the Cavs’ passing improved in the games leading up to the All-Star break and that trend continued against the Suns. The Cavs’ 34 assists on 42 field goals was one shy of their season high, which came Feb. 13 in a triple-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Much of that is due to the performance of Dellavedova, who has totaled 24 assists in the past two games. Against the Suns, Dellavedova passed out eight in the fourth quarter. Against the Nets, he handed out seven of his 13 in the fourth quarter and extra periods.

“It was crazy, before we got Delly … I’m only saying this because he’s next to me, hopefully I’ll get some more passes next game. It’s contagious,” Larry Nance Jr. said. “You see guys like him, you see guys like Kevin [Love] making the extra pass when maybe they have a shot … Then Dave [Nwaba] shovels one to me. Then late game Z [Ante Zizic] has a hook shot in the post that he’s made repeatedly over the night, but decides to drop it to me in the lane.

“Unselfishness is contagious and tonight it really took effect.”

Nwaba’s pass had a major impact, helping the Cavs push a five-point lead at the end of the third quarter to 11 early in the fourth.

“As a teammate that speaks volumes. That’s progress,” Nance said of Nwaba. “As a team I don’t know if we would have done that in the first half of the season. But to see him behind me and toss it off and take the assist rather than the two points, that’s a big move. I certainly appreciate it and made sure he knew that.”

Nance might not argue with the suggestion that Nwaba’s assist could have been part of the Delly effect.

In his 30 games with the Cavs since being traded by the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 7, Dellavedova is averaging a team-high 4.3 assists, his highest since 2016-17 in Milwaukee (4.7) and not that far off his contribution (4.4) for the Cavs’ 2016 championship team.

This season, the 28-year-old Australian’s impact has been most visible in the past 10 games, when he’s handed out 5.9 assists per game and the Cavs have gone 4-6. With rookie Collin Sexton starting at the point, the Cavs’ team average is 20.9, 28th in the league, ahead of only the Houston Rockets (20.7) and New York Knicks (19.9).

It’s no surprise coach Larry Drew is calling on six-year veteran Dellavedova to close out games. While he’s playing 20.2 minutes, Dellavedova has totaled over 60 in the past two, getting in for 10:40 in the fourth quarter against the Suns.

“He did a phenomenal job going down the stretch of making the right plays and right passes,” Drew said Thursday.

“When Delly is in there, he’s just controlling the pace and he just helps us a lot,” Osman said.

Dellavedova admitted he is trying to be the catalyst to get the ball moving.

“Definitely tried to do that, but like Larry was saying, it’s contagious and I think everyone’s been doing a great job of that, especially the last couple games,” Dellavedova said.

But when it came to discussing his pass to the cutting Osman for a 98-86 lead with 5:41 left, Osman had to do most of the explaining. Osman said the play sometimes goes to Jordan Clarkson.

“It’s been something we’ve been doing almost every game,” Osman said. “We’re just doing it once. That once worked every time … so we’ll see.”

 

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.