Tag: Melbourne United

2021 NBL Grand Final preview: Game 3

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final series moves to Melbourne for Game 3 with Melbourne United looking to seal the deal against Perth Wildcats in front of a home crowd. Having played the first two games at RAC Arena the ease in COVID-19 restrictions has allowed play to transition to Victoria on Friday night with the game set to be an absolute blockbuster.

Melbourne United are sitting pretty with two wins under their belts and are one win away from securing the coveted premiership. It has been a rollercoaster series so far with Perth getting out to early leads in both games but United showcasing their class and grit to grind down the Wildcats and win. Unfortunately Perth have been struck down with a wealth of injuries with Bryce Cotton yet to take the court due to his injury, Luke Travers and Clint Steindl were both sidelined in Game 2, while sparks flew around the fitness of Mitch Norton who appeared to tweak something. Perth will once again be tested for depth in Game 3 while United are going along swimmingly on the injury front with the only concern Jo Lual-Acuil who left the court.

Scoring is proving to be a real issue for the Wildcats who have been unable to hit the 80-point mark in their past seven encounters. Meanwhile United have showcased their firepower and dominance from long range to keep the Wildcats out of the game. Momentum will be a focal point in this clash with United expected to come in with a head full of steam. But one thing that cannot be discounted is Perth’s ability to do the unthinkable. The two-time premiers have an uncanny ability to whip something up out of nothing and will need to be at their damaging best if they are to keep their slim premiership hopes alive.

United will be hoping to shut down Todd Blanchfield once again and really put the clamps on the forward like they did in Game 2. Blanchfield was an excitement machine in Game 1 but failed to have the same impact second time around but does not often have two quiet games. John Mooney is another player for the Wildcats that can turn a game in the blink of an eye given he averages 17 points and 11.4 rebounds but has not reached those heights so far this series. Kevin White and Will Magnay will have to up the ante if they are to upset United and apply some real scoreboard pressure.

Looking at United and the home side will have plenty of pep in their step when they host Perth on Friday. Chris Goulding found his stroke from beyond the arc in Game 2 and if he continues on that trajectory it could spell trouble for the Wildcats. It is a two-pronged attack for United with Goulding and Jock Landale able to hit the scoreboard with great ease. the pair have quickly become a commanding force with Landale both a threat off the boards and on the points scoring front thanks to his average of 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds. But it is the support from their bench players that gives United a real edge with Yudai Baba having a blistering performance in Game 2 and Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron able to inflict scoreboard pain in a short amount of time.

Photo credit: Will Russell

United make it two from two away from home

MELBOURNE United are one step away from claiming the ultimate prize toppling Perth Wildcats in Game 2 of the Grand Final series (83-74).  Backing up their performance from only days earlier, United got the job done at RAC Arena digging deep in the second half.

It was a blistering first term of basketball from Perth as the home side charged out of the blocks with a real point to prove. Only going down by three points in Game 1 it looked as if the Wildcats were out for vengeance nice and early despite missing the likes of Bryce Cotton, Clint Steindl and Luke Travers. It was always going to be hard to find scoring avenues but the Wildcats did not have that issue in the opening term as John Mooney and Will Magnay inserted themselves in the contest. United would not give in though as Chris Goulding picked up where he left off, finding his stroke from down-town alongside Jock Landale. But Perth were relentless piling on eight points straight and continued to attack the rim as Kevin White replaced Mitch Norton who was struggling with an injury he sustained in Game 1. By quarter time the Wildcats had established a handy 10-point lead to put them in good stead for the match.

Disappointed with their efforts in the first term United came out with a much more spirited performance to start the second, pegging away at the deficit thanks to eight straight points as Jo Lual-Acuil found his groove. It was not until Yudai Baba drained a three-pointer that United hit the front. But the twists and turns continued as the lead changed hands once again as Perth went on a handy nine point scoring spree to quash United’s momentum. With the clock ticking down to half time, Baba had other ideas as he landed one from three-point range before bringing the house down with a half-court shot on the buzzer to level the scores at 42 apiece.

With neither side really able to assert themselves on the contest it was United’s time to shine and that they did. Goulding showcased his leadership and grit to spur his side on as they rallied, adding nine consecutive points to establish a handy lead. but Goulding proved costly on the foul front notching up his fourth for the evening and subsequently pushing him to the bench. Credit to Melbourne’s defence the Wildcats were unable to find any easy avenue to the basket as Mooney was shut down and Todd Blanchfield struggled to have the same impact he did in Game 1. United controlled majority of the term despite a couple of late points from White and Magnay to get the three quarter time buffer to five points.

It was all coming down to the final quarter with United looking to close out the game and the Wildcats hoping to do the unthinkable and flip the script to notch up a win. But that was not to be, as Melbourne got busy in the first couple of minutes with Scotty Hopson opening the account with a jump shot to set the wheels in motion. Goulding was re-injected back into the action with the captain impressing with his dominance from beyond the arc . Things just continued to steadily tick along for United as their class and depth shone through against a depleted Perth outfit.

Mooney was the main playmaker for the Wildcats producing 17 points and nine rebounds while Blanchfield was down on his Game 1 efforts finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds. Norton managed 12 points in his 27 minutes while White also chimed in with a handy 12 points and two rebounds. There were a few more contributors for the victors but once again it was Goulding that led the way sinking 21 points at 50 per cent from the field. His dominance from three-point range was a standout draining four shots from seven attempts. Landale racked up a double-double thanks to his 12 points and 17 rebounds, 15 of which were defensive while Baba had a game to remember sinking 15 points and four rebounds. Lual-Acuil was the only other player to reach double figures with 10 points as Hopson walked away with nine points to his name.

Game 3 will be played at John Cain Arena as Melbourne United look to seal the deal with a win and secure the coveted premiership. But it will not be easy given Perth are back-to-back champions for a reason and will be eager to make amends for their shortcomings.

Photo credit: AAP

United claim upper hand in Game 1

MELBOURNE United scraped home to snatch a narrow three point victory in Game 1 of the Grand Final series against a depleted Perth Wildcats (73-70). It was a hard slog with neither side willing to give an inch as the lead chopped and changed throughout the contest.

In front of a packed RAC Arena the home side was hoping to kick things off with a bang but were hit hard by injury before the game even started with three time MVP Bryce Cotton still out of action and Luke Travers unable to take the court with calf soreness. United were on the money early with captain, Chris Goulding inspiring the side before Mason Peatling contributed to the scoreboard. But the Wildcats were not about to lie down as the cogs started to tick over as Travers’ replacement in Clint Steindl converted his free-throws and Mitch Norton found his way to the rim. Perth continued this momentum to end the term with a nine point to three run creating a narrow one point lead at the break 19-18.

Looking to capitalise on their dominant end to the term Wani Swaka Lo Buluk nailed consecutive shots to push the margin out to three points before both Todd Blanchfield and John Mooney got involved in the action for Perth.  The lead ballooned out to as much as seven points as the Wildcats shut down United’s drive to the basket through their defensive efforts. It was a high intensity final three minutes of basketball in the second quarter as both sides traded blows in hope to gain the upper hand and a last second triple from none other than Goulding was exactly what the side needed heading into the main break.

Only four points separated the two sides at half time and United were eager to eat into that deficit from the opening minutes of the third quarter. With Steindl out of the game for Perth and Melbourne still at full capacity the visitors made use of their bench depth. With less than nine minutes left on the clock United levelled the scores at 35 points apiece but that was short lived as Perth hit back to forge ahead. But the twists and turns continued as Jock Landale came to life in the third with the star recruit imposing himself in every way he could while Goulding was at his damaging best from beyond the arc. United did not look like relenting with the momentum well and truly favouring them as veteran David Barlow showed some spark with a handy triple as Melbourne started to assert themselves. As the clock ticked down to the final change the visitors held a four point lead thanks to a 29 point to 18 term.

With it all to play for in the final term United were in the box seat and while the boisterous crowd were trying their hard to spur the Wildcats on it was not enough. Blanchfield was monumental for the Wildcats but it was the likes of Landale and Goulding that were doing a wealth of damage as they continued their merry way for United. In fact the lead skipped out to as much as 10 points midway through the quarter thanks to a hookshot from Jo Lual-Acuil. But as the quarter went on the spirit and fight of Wildcats came to the fore as they dwindled the margin back to three but fell short of victory with a potential to Norton also at the forefront of Perth’s mind.

Blanchfield was a consistent figure for the Wildcats topscoring with a whopping 27 points and seven rebounds all of which were defensive. Kevin White chimed in with a handy 10 points and five rebounds coming off the bench while Mooney was down on his productivity only registering eight points, seven rebounds and four steals. For United, Goulding was running hot sinking 23 points along with three rebounds and two steals. Landale was also proficient thanks to his 17 points at 43 per cent from the field plus his seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Mitch McCarron had an influence off the boards reeling in 11 rebounds and also managed six points while Lual-Acuil finished the game with 10 points and seven rebounds to his name.

Photo credit: Paul Kane

2021 NBL Finals: Perth vs. Melbourne – Grand final preview

IT is a tale as old as time with Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United once again set to lock horns in the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final. Game 1 and 2 will be played at RAC Arena given the current COVID-19 restrictions in place in Victoria with the hopes of Game 3 to be played back in Melbourne.

Taking out top spot on the ladder three games clear of Perth, United will be hoping to bring that same level of intensity when they enter the fortress that is RAC Arena on Friday night. The two teams have faced off five times this season with United securing three of those victories to give them the edge heading into the grand final series. However with a home crowd behind them and an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable Perth are not without a real chance here. The Wildcats are not back-to-back premiers for no reason with their ability to come from the ashes and steal a win one of their specialities meaning United will have to be on their a-game.

The two sides met only a couple of years ago in the 2018/19 grand finals series where the Wildcats claimed victory in four games a feat that United will be hoping to reverse. An early win here in enemy territory could really shape a title push for Melbourne. But if Perth are able to apply the early pressure then it could make life hard for the visitors who are on the hunt for their first premiership since 2018.

Both sides were put through the wringer to make it to the grand final forced to three games in their respective semi-finals series. Perth was faced with Illawarra Hawks who turned their 2020 campaign well and truly around from bottom of the table to third while United had to come from behind in Game 3 to topple South East Melbourne Phoenix. But now heading into this clash it will be battle to see which playmakers can step up to the plate and lead the charge. Both sides are littered with classy figures that are no strangers to the big stage but it will be their ability to withstand the pressure and play composed basketball that will be the real difference.

Perth has been missing Bryce Cotton and he is an integral member in their side given his capacity to bob up at any given time and attack the rim or dish off dimes. Without him expect John Mooney to up the ante. Mooney is coming off a 16 point and 15 rebound game with the bigman proving to be a menace up either end of the court with 13 of those 15 rebounds defensive. Todd Blanchfield has been resurgent this season with his attacking manner and imposing style of play allowing him to impact the scoreboard as seen through his 24 points last game and season average of 15 points. Mitch Norton is another one the Wildcats will be hoping continues his hot run of form while Jesse Wagstaff is a real heart and soul player that can inspire his team when needed.

Looking at United and after a milestone game last round Chris Goulding will be wanting to continue his careers upwards trajectory. In his 351st game, the captain will be hoping to find his range nice and early from beyond the arc to send off a real warning shot to the Wildcats. Goulding averages 15.4 points a game along with 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Another real livewire for United is Jock Landale with the star recruit showcasing his attacking prowess last game to drag his side over the line. Landale leads the way for United with 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists to his name making him a concern for the Wildcats. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson with 12.3 points and 3.6 rebounds each time he steps out on the court plus the reliability of Mitch McCarron and United have their fair share of power players. Yudai Baba is known for his ability to chime in while Jo Lual-Acuil is also having an impressive season making for an enticing battle.

Photo credit: Getty images

Phoenix send it to Game 3 with emphatic come-from-behind win

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix bit back in Game 2 of the semi-finals series downing Melbourne United by 11 points, 90-79. The win takes the total to one apiece forcing the series to a decider with the winner through to the grand final. It was a tale of two halves with the second favouring the Phoenix and allowing them to get the job done.

From the opening whistle it looked like Melbourne United were going to walk away with the chocolates once again and seal their fate early with a hard-earned grand final berth. United hit the scoreboard with ease largely due to some good shooting from Chris Goulding as they skipped out to a handy 7-2 advantage. It was clear that there was plenty of feeling out on court with Jock Landale finding himself in hot water early picking up two fouls in the first term alone before teammate David Barlow registered an unsportsmanlike foul to really trouble the top of the table side. This well and truly played into the hands of the Phoenix as their key cogs stepped up to the plate with Keifer Sykes showcasing his wares. It was tit-for-tat in the final stages of the term before United landed the final blow to hold a slim two point lead at the break.

The second term saw much of the same with the two sides competing hard and throwing everything they had at one another in hope to find a winning edge – an edge United seemed to have unlocked. Things were motoring along nicely for United who snuck out to a handy nine-point lead towards the backend of the quarter as Scotty Hopson and Jo Lual-Acuil rotated strike on the scoring front. But the Phoenix were determined to fight back and not the game slip through their fingers as Yannick Wetzell nailed back to back shots before Kyle Adnam delivered from the charity strip to reduce the margin to four points at half time.

In the driver’s seat heading into the premiership term, United looked composed and in control. But the Phoenix were not done yet, they continued to linger and pester at United who were unable to put them away scoring 20 points apiece in the third. Mitch Creek and Sykes proved to be crucial for South East Melbourne with the duo finding ways to bob up and hit the scoreboard every time United tried to create some separation. A nine-point straight run from the Phoenix gifted them the lead and the ascendancy but that was short lived as Yudai Baba struck back with a much needed triple to steal the lead back heading into the final change.

The Phoenix had been thereabouts all game and now was their time to shine. With the game on the line they left nothing to chance whipping out the big guns and upping the ante particularly in defence. They stifled United keeping them to a mere nine points while they piled on a whopping 24 to completely swing the momentum. Landale found himself in further foul trouble on and off the court while the Phoenix were finding their groove. There were limited threes all night before Creek got the party started to hand his side their highest lead of the game out to five points, and from there on out, United simply had no answers and no way to combat Sykes who was having a field day as the Phoenix reigned supreme.

Both Creek and Sykes had a day out registering 26 points apiece in a strong showing for the Phoenix. Sykes converted at 55 per cent from the field while also managing four assists, three steals and three blocks as Creek picked up four rebounds. Wetzell was also strong sinking 20 points and eight rebounds providing a helping hand in offence. It was a lot more evenly spread for United who did not necessarily have a dominant player as Hopson topped the table with 19 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Goulding was next best with 14 points but was uncharacteristically inaccurate from deep only nailing two of his eight attempts. Both Mason Peatling and Lual-Acuil finished with 11 points and seven rebounds each. Landale had a night he would rather forget only registering five points in his 13 minutes while also being fouled out.

Game 3 between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne will be played on Tuesday at Qudos Bank Arena.

Photo credit: Jason McCawley

Melbourne United assert dominance over cross-town rivals in Game 1

IT was a one-sided affair as Melbourne United defeated cross-town rival South East Melbourne Phoenix by 18 points (96-78) on Friday. United showcased why they were top of the table in Game 1 of their semi-finals series with a convincing performance from the opening buzzer to lead from go-to-woe.

The Phoenix made all the running in the first few minutes of the opening quarter, piling on seven points straight to steal the lead and create a handy five-point buffer against Melbourne United. But the tables started to slowly turn as Sam McDaniel found his groove, hitting a much needed triple to get United back in the game. That was the exact spark Melbourne needed as the duo of Mason Peatling and Jock Landale asserted themselves on the contest to score with great ease and keep the scoreboard ticking over for United, while the contribution of Scotty Hopson off the bench did plenty of favours for the ladder leaders, producing seven points in the first term alone.

Holding a nice six-point lead at the break, United kicked it up a gear in the second with their defensive and offensive game on point. Forcing five turnovers in the first term alone, the Phoenix were struggling to work the ball down court and have any real potency and unfortunately it did not get any easier as Melbourne went on a scoring rampage, piling on 32 points to 18. Landale set the tone nice and early with his five points to start the quarter before veteran, Chris Goulding showed his wares with three triples to create some real scoreboard separation. Hopson continued on his merry way, finding his stroke from down town as Landale proved to be a thorn in the Phoenix’s side, posting 16 points before half time.

The 20-point half time buffer was always going to be hard to come back from for the Phoenix and while Ryan Broekhoff got the party underway, it was short lived. Their inability to treasure possession was coming back to bite them time and time again while United pounced on their opportunities. the full court defensive pressure stemming from United was palpable as they clamped down on South East Melbourne to stop them scoring for over three minutes, all while pouring on the points with 16 straight to establish a commanding 31-point lead at the final change, 85-54.

With respect on the line the Phoenix came out with a point to prove in the final term and that they did, playing with some real conviction and purpose. They increased their output on the scoreboard, sinking 24 points while limiting United’s chances to capitalise, but it mattered very little as the damage was already done.

Landale had a night to remember, producing 26 points at an impressive 71 per cent from the field. Next best for United was Hopson with 22 points in his 20 minutes on court with his accuracy from the field also crucial, going at 81 per cent. Hopson also picked up three assists. Goulding did his best work in the second term, only finishing with nine points to his name but four rebounds and an assist as Peatling reeled in six rebounds while Jo Lual-Acuil plied his trade with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal. For the Phoenix it was Ben Moore that led the charge with 17 points coming off the bench along with three rebounds, as star Mitch Creek also made his presence felt with 15 points at 60 per cent from the field. Creek also managed four rebounds, six assists and two steals in an attempt to get his side over the line. Keifer Sykes worked hard for his 12 points as Broekhoff managed eight and Kyle Adnam sunk nine points but at a lowly 42 per cent.

One thing the Phoenix will take out of the game was the fact they know they can work themselves back into a match given their last quarter efforts. However if United secure the next win on Sunday – back at Qudos Bank Arena given the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria – then it will be curtains for the Phoenix and a chance for United to lift the premiership.

Photo credit: Jason McCawley

2021 NBL Semi-finals preview: Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

FRIDAY night will play host to the second lot of National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals action with Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix set to lock horns.

The two sides have a rich history despite the Phoenix only entering the competition last year, with a healthy rivalry between the cross-town rivals brewing with each and every game. This series will be no different with the growing tussle between the two sides sure to make for great viewing. With Victoria out of action due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in place the match between United and the Phoenix will be played at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.

United have been top of the ladder for majority of the season racking up 28 wins and only dropping eight games while for the Phoenix they registered 19 wins and 17 losses. The Phoenix had a rough finish to the season with Brisbane Bullets finishing on 19 wins too but South East Melbourne’s percentage fractionally better gifting them their first shot at playoffs. United have only lost one of their past five games while it is a different story for the Phoenix who just snuck into the top four. South East Melbourne have struggled to put their best foot forward in their past five outings dropping three out of five games but finals are a completely different ball game and one United have always struggled with in the past. Often known as the bridesmaids when it comes to NBL history, Melbourne United will be hoping to open their account with a strong win and edge one step closer to that all-elusive premiership.

There is no denying that Jock Landale has been revelation since joining Melbourne United with the star showing what he is capable on the big stage. Landale averages 16.4 points a game along with 7.89 rebounds and 2.37 assists. There is no going past Chris Goulding with the veteran a steady and calm head for the side with his ability to control the tempo and step up to the plate when necessary. Goulding averages 15.67 points a game plus 2.6 rebounds and 2.27 assists. Jo Lual-Acuil is having a season to remember with the bigman imposing himself off the bench with his 9.69 points and 5.66 rebounds while Mitch McCarron has been a pillar of consistency and will need to deliver to give United an edge. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Yudai Baba and United have a plethora of scoring options.

When looking at the Phoenix there is no shortage of superstars with Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff all impressive candidates. Creek has been a lynchpin in the side able to rally the troops or carry the side on his back to victory averaging 18 points, 6.41 rebounds and 3.62 assists a game. Sykes is another force to be reckoned with registering 14.04 points and 5.29 assists while Broekhoff is yet to reach the peak of his powers putting up numbers of 7.56 points and 3.5 rebounds. Kyle Adnam has upped the ante in season 2021 producing impressive numbers thanks to his average of 12.61 points and 3.64 assists. The Phoenix will need the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore to find their groove if they are to get over the line.

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Friday, June 11 @7:30pm

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Sunday, June 13 @3:00pm

Photo credit: Graham Denholm

United cap off home and away season in style

MELBOURNE United rounded out the home and away season in style, notching up another win over the Adelaide 36ers 102-80 to create some real ladder separation out in top spot on the ladder. It was a resounding win for United, winning every quarter of the match and making light work of the 36ers who simply could not compete with the high level output of Melbourne.

With the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Victoria, United were unable to play their home game in front of a home crowd but that did not seem to stop them from getting the job done. Conversely the loss amounts to Adelaide’s seventh on the trot as the 36ers ended on a disappointing note after showing some promising glimpses to open their 2021 campaign.

Playing their second game for the round, Dean Vickerman opted to start his second unit of players and that move proved to work wonders as Jo Lual-Acuil made his mark early. Lual-Acuil managed to slot six of the first opening points of the game to claim some real ascendancy for United. The veteran in David Barlow also got involved in the action before the 36ers hit back through Daniel Johnson who landed the first points of the game for Adelaide. Moments later Brandon Paul got his hands dirty sinking a layup and the cogs started to turn for the visitors as the margin was back to three points with Tony Crocker doing the heavy lifting thanks to his 10 points. Despite Adelaide’s best efforts United continued to find a way to score opening up an eight point buffer at the break.

The second term rolled around and it was the ever-reliable and explosive Chris Goulding that drew first blood. The captain managed to sink Adelaide hearts with consecutive triples as the lead ballooned out to 17 points. He was not the only one that was finding plenty of the rock as Jock Landale and Scotty Hopson impacted the scoreboard. Johnson was working in overdrive for the 36ers lending his hand both in attack and defence producing 14 points and nine rebounds but it was simply not enough to keep in touch with United.

Holding onto a commanding 13-point lead at the main break United looked to extend that buffer and inflict some more pain. But Adelaide had other plans as they mounted somewhat of a comeback with Keanu Pinder and Crocker finding their groove and having an impact. They cut the deficit back to eight points but that is where it stopped as United once again took charge as Shea Ili and Lual-Acuil imposed themselves to get the game back on their terms winning the quarter 24-21.

The final term rolled around and United were in the box seat. Crocker made the first move draining a triple before Mitch McCarron came to life for the top of the table United. There were plenty of moments for the 36ers early in the quarter but the class and endurance of United shone through as they ground their opponents down and managed to find a way to score time and time again producing 25 points while keeping their opponents to 19. It was a strong win for Melbourne who ran out 22-point victors, leading from the opening minutes to the end of the match.

Both Hopson and Landale proved to have a hot hand for United sinking 19 points apiece. Landale fell just short of a double-double thanks to his nine rebounds to accompany his 19 points as Hopson managed two rebounds. Lual-Acuil continued his hot form thanks to his 16 points at 70 per cent from the field while Goulding finished the match with 12 points and five assists to his name. Ili was a force to be reckoned with amassing 11 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as Mason Peatling also chimed in with a handy eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Crocker was the go-to man for Adelaide sinking 27 points and five rebounds while Johnson providing good support nailing 18 points and 13 rebounds. Paul was the only other player to reach double figures with 14 points at 45 per cent from the field.

Photo credit: Daniel Kalisz

United take out minor premiership

MELBOURNE United secured top spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder with a win over rivals Perth Wildcats (78-64). The win gifts United the privileges of a home court advantage but will hoping that fans are allowed into the stadium given the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria. Nevertheless first place has long been Melbourne’s this season and this victory sealed the deal.

Although Perth were without two of their key contributors in Bryce Cotton and Mitch Norton that should not discount the magnitude of the win, with confidence key heading into finals. the loss marks Perth’s second straight loss while United managed their second win in a row to go with a full head of steam heading into the playoffs.

The Wildcats came out with a point to prove nailing the first five points of the game. The experienced head of Todd Blanchfield stepped up to the plate early, applying some strong scoreboard pressure. But that is where is stopped as the visitors upped the ante in both offence and defence to stop the Wildcats in their tracks and go on the attack themselves. The bench players in Yudai Baba and David Barlow were able to make their presence felt from down town landing a couple of handy threes. But the most impressive rally was when United piled on 10 points straight to round out the term as Jo Lual-Acuil carried the weight of the world on his shoulders credit to his six points. United established a commanding 12 point lead by the end of the first quarter and did not look like giving it up.

But the class of the Wildcats started to come to the fore as the reigning premiers proved they were not going to go down without a fight. Clint Steindl lent a hand in attack sinking a triple while Blanchfield also continued to do damage from beyond the arc. With their tails well and truly up the Wildcats were able to plug away at the margin using their smarts and skill to go on a points scoring spree of their own. Nailing six points straight to close out the term Perth were able to reduce the deficit to just seven points and give them a fighting chance heading into the second half.

The third term tightened up with both sides still trying to assert their dominance. However it was United that still had the upper hand as Sam McDaniel and Jock Landale played their part in keeping their sides noses in-front. After a quiet start to the game, Chris Goulding finally got his time to shine landing his first points of the game but the spirit of the Wildcats was still profound. Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff finished the term with a hot hand as the duo worked in overdrive to cull the margin to eight at the final change.

With the game on the line it was United that controlled proceedings, digging deep to keep the game on their terms and secure the win. The key figures inBarlow and Landale chimed in at the right time for United to keep Perth at bay and win the game by 14-points.

The contest between Landale and John Mooney was enthralling with the two barometers for their respective sides going head to head. However it is fair to say that Landale had the upper hand and was a key reason for United’s success as he produced 14 points and five rebounds. Lual-Acuil led all-comers with his 16 points and two assists off the bench while Mitch McCarron also had a point to prove draining 11 points and picking up six rebounds and five assists in the win. Goulding was down on his productivity recording six points and four rebounds as Barlow got busy in his 20  minutes on court with nine points and four rebounds to his name. Blanchfield was the most dominant scorer for the Wildcats finishing with 15 points at 35 per cent from the field. Luke Travers was a handy option for Perth recording 10 points and eight rebounds while Will Magnay also sunk 10 points and collected two rebounds and two assists.

Photo credit: Paul Kane

United take home big win against Taipans ahead of top-of-the-table clash

MELBOURNE United have done what they needed to do, and claim the victory over last placed Cairns Taipans to put themselves in the best position for the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) minor premiership. United go head-to-head with the only other team that can challenge them for the spot in Perth Wildcats, in what sets up a tantalising final round of action.

In a top-against-bottom encounter, not too many fans would have expected Cairns to walk away with the points, though both sets of fans would have had to travel with the United home game moved from John Cain Arena to Qudos Bank Arena due to the Victorian lockdown, meeting the Taipans all the way in Sydney. The first quarter went as many might have expected given the relative standings of the two sides, as United raced out to a 16-point quarter time advantage.

Cairns Taipans managed to win the second term in a high-scoring encounter, putting up 29 points to 26 to cut the deficit to 13 points. From there though, United took control once again, winning the third term 22-13 and opening up a 22-point lead at the final break, before finishing off the game well with a 24-21 last quarter to win, 101-76. The 25-point final margin was a result of the two dominant quarters in the first and third terms, and United never conceded the lead.

It was equally no surprise to see the “home” team win across nearly every statistic, with only the turnovers (15-10) and personal fouls (19-12) going more favourably towards the Taipans who also scored more points from turnovers (18-14). United were more efficient from the field wiht a 53 per cent efficiency across both their two and three-point shooting ranges, dropping 16 of 30 triple attempts in a massive long-range shooting display. They also won the rebounds (44-30), assists (23-10), blocks (8-3), points in the paint (38-26) and second chance points (13-10), whilst dominating thanks to their bench, collating 53 points off it to the Taipans’ 24.

Six players reached double-digits for United, with the bench providing some great performances. Scotty Hopson (21 points, five assists and two rebounds) and David Barlow (16 points, four rebounds and two blocks) both provided great support off the pine, while Jock Landale stood up with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Mason Peatling (12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) picked up a double-double, while Mitch McCarron (10 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two assists) were also prominent.

Mirko Djeric lead the way for the Taipans, picking up a team-high 16 points, as well as three assists, while Nathan Jawai was busy off the boards with six rebounds and 10 points. Majok Deng (13 points, two rebounds and two blocks), Scott Machado (10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Tad Dufelmeier (13 points, five rebounds) were the other Snakes to hit double-digit points in the loss.

United travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats on Friday, with a win against Perth, or a win against the out-of-sorts Adelaide 36ers on Sunday, able to lock up the minor premiership. Cairns finishes off its season with an away trip to New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday in a fairly quick turnaround for the Taipans.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images