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United finds it, Breakers lose it: NBL

A FRUSTRATED Chris Goulding sparked NBL leader Melbourne to life over Illawarra before Adelaide consigned New Zealand to a road KO "play-in" game against Sydney - can we not just call it a "top six" and not blindly and blithely copy the NBA all the time? - in what remarkably will be a rematch of last season's Grand Final - oops - "Championship" Series.  

Goulding was not exactly having a great night, going into the halftime break at John Cain Arena with his United trailing 38-42 after scoring a meagre 15 points to Illawarra's 25 in the second period.

The shooting star had not made a field goal and his three points all came from the stripe after he was fouled attempting a 3-pointer.

As they had to Perth, the Hawks crashed the offensive glass and ran the ball at United at every opportunity. They ran a similar defensive strategy at Goulding as they have in the past at Perth's Bryce Cotton and it was working.

That Illawarra was travelling in the driver's seat although Gary Clark was being kept under wraps, was testament to the teamwork and ball movement that ultimately led to 25 assists on 34 made baskets.

Sam Froling needed more touches as his 12 points came on 6-of-8 shooting, to tag alongside his game high in rebounds (9) and assists (5).

And his backups Mason Peatling (8 points, 4-of-4 shooting) and Lachlan Olbrich (5 points, 2-of-2) were perfect from the floor, giving the Hawks the edge over Melbourne's twin towers Jo Lual-Acuil (7 points on 3-of-9) and Ariel Hukporti (4 points on 1-of-1 shots, 2-of-4 free throws).

The game's complexion changed when Goulding went off for eight third quarter and eight fourth quarter points, a pair of threes in each bundle.

Melbourne's 30-point third quarter doubled its second term score and pushed it into the lead with a period to play.

Matthew Dellavedova had the better of Justin Robinson, his 17 points at 70 per cent and including 3-of-3 threes.

Robinson, who generally had a decent game, hurt the Hawks with his last quarter decision-making,  Tyler Harvey stuck over at the scorebench waiting to check in as the game slipped away.

On the 39th birthday of soon-to-be-retired warrior guard/forward Brad Newley, United coach Dean Vickerman started his veteran and ran the opening play for him, which Newley duly rewarded with the match's opening basket.

MELBOURNE UNITED 92 (Goulding 19, Dellavedova 17, Clark, Travers 13; Hukporti, Lual-Acuil 5 rebs; Dellavedova 5 assts ) d ILLAWARRA HAWKS 87 (Robinson 14, Harvey 13, Froling 12; Froling 9 rebs; Froling, Robinson 5 assts) at John Cain Arena. Crowd: 10,175

NEW Zealand definitely was running on empty by the time Adelaide had this locked away, the Breakers still showing great heart to bring the match back to a tight finish after trailing by as many as 16.

Already down All Star Five quality forward Anthony Lamb for the rest of the season, a disconsolate Finn Delany was ruled out ahead of tip-off and when the Breakers also lost William McDowell-White to a recurring shoulder dislocation, turning this around into a win was out of the question.

After a tight first half, marred by officiating which erroneously raced Mangok Mathiang onto two fouls inside the first three minutes, the 36ers broke away, rediscovering Isaac Humphries as a scoring option.

Dejan Vasiljevic (25 points on 7-of-19 shooting, career-high 14 rebounds), missed his first four shots - all ill-conceived attempts - as the Sixers looked for offensive answers while looking off Humphries!

Kyrin Galloway and Nick Marshall carried the 36ers' offence, Jason Cadee - starting in place of the injured Trey Kell (foot) - with the three that gave them a 17-14 lead after one.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright (24 points, 9-of-20) kept the scoreboard ticking and McDowell-White scored 10 of his 14 points in the second period as the Breakers maintained the pressure.

Someone noticed Humphries during the interval, his 15 points all coming in the second half as he (re-)established his inside presence and actually received the ball.

Consequently by the last break, Adelaide was ahead 58-47, a lead which was still at 16 (70-54) when Humphries nailed a corner 3-pointer which almost blew the roof off the AEC.

It revived memories of Paul Rees in his heyday taking that rare triple, and why not, considering Humphries and the 36ers again were in their heritage blue uniforms of the 1999 championship outfit once more.

Zylan Cheatham, PJC and some late bombs by Izayah Le'afa and Cam Gliddon turned this back into a contest as the 36ers tried to remember how to lose.

But under Scott Ninnis, they won more than they lost and the last match of the season was going to be no exception.    

ADELAIDE 36ERS 76 (Vasiljevic 25, Humphries 15, Marshall, Galloway 8; Vasiljevic 14 rebs; McCarron 6 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 70 (Jackson-Cartwright 24, McDowell-White 14, Cheatham, Rubstavicius 8; Cheatham 13 rebs; Cheatham 4 assts) at Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Crowd: 9,513

Feb 18

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