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Back2back for United or #9 for Wildcats


HOW big does Perth’s homecourt advantage in its best-of-five NBL Grand Final Series against Melbourne loom now, considering their regular season clashes were 2-2 and all went with home court?

The Wildcats, champs most recently in 2017 and 2016, against reigning 2018 champion Melbourne, is as mouth-watering a prospect as it gets, especially when you toss in they had three overtime periods – two in Perth and one in Melbourne – to boot.

But Perth has shown it can win away from the comforts of home and its fanatical 13,000-plus Red Army fanbase, while United today showed it has no fear of travelling.

Melbourne erased Sydney 2-0 in their best-of-three semi final series, completing its sweep 90-76 today and in front of a record 14,569 at Qudos Bank Arena.

While all games in last year’s championship series went with home court, this Melbourne outfit and this Perth unit appear far more capable of pinching a road win than the United and 36ers teams of 2018.

Today in Sydney, Melbourne did as Perth had yesterday against Brisbane, weathering a revved opponent’s best shots before laying waste to their hopes and dreams, while keeping its own grand final appointment.

Casper Ware’s 17-point opening period for United was the highest scoring single quarter in the club’s history and set his immediate opponent, Jerome Randle back on his heels.

Randle scored a sweet bucket in the key in Game 2’s first 90 seconds but did not trouble the scoretable again, going 0-of-14 the rest of the journey for a 1-of-15, two point, five assists, three turnover return.

David Wear opened Sydney’s scoring with a 3-pointer, and backed that up with a second triple … albeit in the match’s waning minutes for six points, with five rebounds, no assists and two turnovers.

If ever Sydney needed its imports to fire, it was today, Ray Turner coming up with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and Brian Bowen five points in 13:36 of court time.

Other than Randle, it is unlikely we will ever see any of these guys in an NBL jersey again.

League MVP Andrew Bogut had 10 points from eight shots, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks but United again found ways to lessen his impact.

With all due respect to the young man, but when ex-United sub Kyle Adnam co-leads the scoring with Kevin Lisch on 13 apiece, Melbourne has had its way with your offence.

Daniel Kickert again showed Father Time is in relentless pursuit as coach Andrew Gaze bade farewell to a team he in August described as “arguably the best roster in NBL history”.

Philosophical in his exit and in Sydney’s departure, Gaze said much had been achieved and the players had good reason to be proud of how they performed, even though the sudden nature of elimination was a bitter pill to swallow.

Ware cut down Sydney’s tall poppies but had plenty of assistance as Chris Goulding added 23 points off the bench – a role the captain has graciously embraced for the good of his team – and his three assists were all wicked passes.

DJ Kennedy and Mitch McCarron looked every inch players trying to defend a championship – even though neither was part of United’s 2018 team.

Melbourne now pursues the challenge of becoming the first Victorian-based NBL club to win back-to-back championships since St Kilda in 1979 and 1980, Perth going for its ninth crown, already twice as successful as the next club.

SEMI FINAL (2v3)
Game 1: MELBOURNE
 UNITED 95 (Ware 22, Kennedy 20, Goulding 17, McCarron 15, Boone 14; Boone 7 rebs; Ware 7 assts) d SYDNEY KINGS 73 (Newley 17, Lisch, Randle 13; Bogut 7 rebs; Bowen, Newley, Lisch 3 assts) at Melbourne Arena.
Game 2: MELBOURNE UNITED 90 (Ware 30, Goulding 23, McCarron, Kennedy 10; Boone 8 rebs; McCarron 5 assts) d SYDNEY KINGS 76 (Adnam, Lisch 13, Turner 12, Bogut 10; Bogut 12 rebs; Bogut, Randle 5 assts) at Qudos Bank Arena.
United sweep series 2-0

SEMI FINAL (1v4)
Game 1
: PERTH WILDCATS 89 (Cotton 22, White 19, Kay 18, Brandt 12; Kay 10 rebs; Cotton 6 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 59 (Gliddon 18, Hodgson 10; Hodgson 7 rebs; Patterson 6 assts) at RAC Arena.
Game 2: PERTH WILDCATS 84 (White 24, Cotton 19, Kay 16; Kay 15 rebs; Cotton 10 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 79 (Patterson 19, Hodgson 15, Bairstow 12, Gliddon 10; Bairstow 7 rebs; Gibson 5 assts) at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Wildcats sweep series 2-0

NBL GRAND FINAL SERIES (BEST-OF-5)
PERTH WILDCATS (1) v MELBOURNE UNITED (2)
Game
1: Friday, March 8, 9.50pm (AEDT, 6.50pm WA), RAC Arena. Live on FOX SPORTS.
Game 2: Sunday, March 10, 2.50pm (AEDT, 11.50am WA), Melbourne Arena. Live on 9Go! and FOX SPORTS.
Game 3, 4, 5: To be advised.

Mar 3

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