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Greatest shot in NBL history clinches Game 3

JACK McVEIGH today hit the most massive shot of his NBL career, arguably the second biggest shot in NBL history to give Tasmania a 93-91 road win over Melbourne, scorching the JackJumpers - fuelled by Majok Deng's 15-point final period - to a 2-1 Championship Series lead.

United held a 91-90 lead and was in possession with 12 seconds left after a contested Milton Doyle long-range launch for the win went unrewarded.

Jordon Crawford's drive for the lead already was swatted away by Luke Travers at the 26-second mark, leaving the JackJumpers with a timeout and 14 seconds to run their final play.

But it was a rare disaster, Melbourne now only needing to advance the ball and value it to seize the series edge. With Tasmania only on one team foul, it likely would have run out of time trying to foul its way into bonus, Crawford fouling to stop the clock, then Sean Macdonald doing the same at 8.1 seconds.

The ball in their frontcourt, United still held the whip hand but Matthew Dellavedova's sideline inbounds pass cracked it, the ball floating out over the baseline before Doyle leapt to retrieve it to McVeigh.

McVeigh snatched Doyle's save, dribbled it six times up the floor, his eyes barely wavering from the basket as he crossed the ball over on his final dribble, rose into his shooting action and released the most significant shot of his career.

Firing from barely beyond the centre-circle, his shot never looked like missing, swishing through the basket to leave Melbourne less than two seconds to respond.

Dellavedova's pressured midcourt heave was the real prayer, its failure lost amid the wild celebrations of a JackJumpers side that lost Marcus Lee to a knee injury and had Doyle hampered on four fouls for much of the second half.

There have only been three similar big shots in NBL history, Peter Vitols' reverse layup on the siren for St Kilda to beat Canberra in the 1979 Grand Final, Ekene Ibekwe's jumpshot for New Zealand to beat Cairns 83-81 in a 2015 Grand Final 2-0 sweep (it was best-of-three then), and Darryl McDonald's jumpshot for North Melbourne to win Game 1 of the 1994 championship over Adelaide.

Vitols' shot made it a 94-93 win for the Saints and by winning the league's historic first Grand Final, it technically must rate at No.1.

Ibekwe's jumper also clinched a championship but the score was tied 81-81 so a miss still meant the safety of overtime. That's not to minimise it or say it wasn't huge, but it did not match McVeigh's winner for degree of difficulty.

Neither did D-Mac's game-winner, which again broke a 93-93 tie (in overtime) but wasn't a championship-winner. 

And for that matter, neither did Vitols' two-foot winner but the fact it won the match and the championship makes it huge.

McVeigh's winner did not win the championship but it sure as hell was far tougher than either of the other three and now throws the onus back onto Melbourne to respond in Game 4 on Thursday in Hobart.

For much of this match, it was Melbourne which held the upper hand, even though it only led 44-43 at halftime - and that was courtesy of a Chris Goulding banked three to beat the siren - and 69-62 at the last break.

Ahead by as many as 11 and with Luke Travers curtailing McVeigh, Doyle running into early second-half foul trouble, Goulding hitting big shots, Crawford unable to hinder Shea Ili, and Dellavedova nailing 3-of-6 threes and numerous floaters in his 21-point haul, the odds favoured United.     

Fabijan Krslovic served Tasmania well earlier in spot minutes, hitting a three and an inside basket off Doyle feeds. Coach Scott Roth chose to play most of the last quarter with a lineup of 3-point shooters, Deng relishing his opportunity the most and United's Dean Vickerman forced to alter his tactics.

Missing much of the season with an ankle injury, Deng - the "forgotten man" - reminded everyone of his growth and development under Roth by swishing two threes split by a Sean MacDonald triple as the Jackies erased United's buffer at 71-71.

Deng's driving dunk, then two of his trademark free throw shoulder shimmies meant Tasmania again was tied at 77-77. 

At 4:27, Travers' three gave United an 84-80 lead, three points quickly trimmed off that by Crawford. His layup gave Tassie the lead, Goulding's drive wresting it back for Melbourne.

With 1:18 left, Deng restored the lead for the JackJumpers before Dellavedova stuck a long 3-pointer for an 89-87 swing back for Melbourne.

Mere seconds later, Doyle's three made it 90-89 and with just over half a minute left, Dellavedova again scored for United's last lead at 91-90.

From there though came the real drama, ending with McVeigh covering himself in glory, his team one win from emulating Launceston Casino City in 1981 as a Tasmanian NBL champion.


Game 3: TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 93 (McVeigh 18, Deng 15, Crawford, Doyle 14, MacDonald 13; McVeigh 12 rebs; Doyle 7 assts) d MELBOURNE UNITED 91 (Dellavedova 21, Goulding 17, Travers 14, Ili 11; Hukporti 9 rebs; Dellavedova 8 assts) at John Cain Arena. Crowd: 10,175 

Game 2: TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 82 (McVeigh 16, MacDonald, Crawford, Doyle 13; Doyle 10 rebs; Crawford, McVeigh 4 assts) d MELBOURNE UNITED 77 (Ili 20, Goulding 19, Lual-Acuil 9; Lual-Acuil 11 rebs; Dellavedova 7 assts) at MyState Bank Arena. Crowd: 4,340

Game 1: MELBOURNE UNITED 104 (Goulding 22, Lual-Acuil 20, Clark 18, Dellavedova 11; Lual-Acuil 11 rebs; Dellavedova 6 assts) d TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 81 (Drmic 18, Doyle 16, McVeigh 13, Magnay 10; Doyle 8 rebs; MacDonald, McVeigh 3 assts) at John Cain Arena. Crowd: 9,108

Tasmania leads series 2-1, Game 4 in Hobart on Thursday


Historically, because two of the other three shots (by Vitols and Ibekwe) won the Grand Finals, they have to rate as more important. But better?

No way. Neither was D-Mac's.

McVeigh's shot was the stuff of legend, not the first time he's done it either.

But from the moment he caught the ball off Doyle's save, his eyes were fixed on the target and he knew - not necessarily by thought, more by instinct - exactly what he needed to do. That's how far out he released it from. It was always going in.

For me, this is the greatest single shot - for degree of difficulty, degree of importance and degree of confidence - in the history of the NBL.

Mar 24

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.