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United takes a stand and Kings march on

EVEN the most diehard Melbourne fans were beginning to worry but today United started its upward climb, before the NBL-leading Kings also made a statement to Final Four wannabe Brisbane.

And it was "No, you're far from ready yet."

But first, Mitch McCarron (pictured) was the unsung hero as Melbourne fought back from a stumbling start against a ferocious NZ Breakers outfit, to secure its first win of the season 104-98.

While his numbers indicate he was toying with a triple-double at eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists, they pale in comparison to those of teammates Shawn Long (27 points, 11 rebounds), Chris Goulding (24 points, five threes) and Melo Trimble (24 points, six assists, five rebounds).

But the big number was 37:18, the amount of minutes he played, because United simply could not afford to have his energy and nonstop activity anywhere but on the court at Melbourne Arena.

Similarly, David Barlow's 11 points and nine rebounds were hugely important but it was McCarron's relentless work at the defensive end which kept Melbourne alive when the Breakers threatened to blow this wide open.

Scotty Hopson, Corey Webster and centre Brandon Ashley, elevated to starter's minutes in the absence of Rob Loe (fractured skull), were simply irresistible as NZ raced 30-22 clear after one.

RJ Hampton was busy, Sek Henry effective and Melbourne was having trouble finding a consistent winner other than Long. It also ran far too many offences without Goulding touching the ball, right from the get-go.

Trailing 55-65 in the third, Long went to work with eight straight points before Goulding converted a drive, then swished a 3-pointer. The 13-0 explosion turned the game around, United in front 68-65 and its belief growing.

Webster's free throws trimmed it back to one before Goulding nailed another three for 71-67. Then, just 2:19 out from the end of the third, Ashley, who was having the best game of his brief NBL career, collected his fourth foul.

New Zealand regained the momentum but accumulated four fouls in the first 50 seconds of the fourth quarter and it was tight the rest of the journey.

With 14.6 seconds of game time left and five seconds on Melbourne's shot clock, United coach Dean Vickerman drew up the match-winning baseline inbounds play, with Long setting a screen for Trimble to cut to the hoop. 

Fouled, Trimble's free throws took a tenuous 100-98 lead out to 102-98 and United had averted a historical milestone where no club which started a season 0-4 has won the championship.

* * *

THE controversy in Sydney surrounded the ejection of reigning league MVP Andrew Bogut after he flung Brisbane centre Matt Hodgson off him to cop his second unsportsmanlike foul of the match.

That earnt him an instant ejection, although with Sydney leading 76-54 and just over eight minutes to play, all it did was allow the Bullets to make the final 94-79 scoreline appear more respectable.

Truthfully, it wasn't, Sydney dominating from start to finish and weathering what token Brisbane resistance Nathan Sobey (21 points) and Lamar Patterson (20 points), both going 8-of-17 from the floor, could muster.

Hodgson and Cam Gliddon totalled five points apiece, Jason Cadee was pointless in 20:20 of court-time, Reuben Te Rangi with three points in 10:27, import EJ Singler also with three in 15:55. It was a disaster.

Realistically, the Bullets were hardly in the contest after Sydney, missing injured Kevin Lisch, opened with a 9-0 run in the first two minutes, topped by Brad Newley's free throws after a fast break.

Casper Ware led the Kings with 17 points and five assists, Bogut with a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double, plus four assists. Didi Louzada's entertaining 14 points came at 67 percent, Shaun Bruce showed little more than contempt for one of his former clubs and Dan Kickert's 11 points were on a perfect 4-of-4 shots, 3-of-3 threes.

Sydney led 52-32 at halftime after a 27-13 second quarter, was ahead by as many as 24, Brisbane never closer than at 0-0. It wasn't pretty, except for Kings fans.

MELBOURNE UNITED 104 (Long 27, Goulding, Trimble 24, Barlow 11; Long 11 rebs; McCarron 7 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 98 (Ashley 24, Webster, Hopson 17; Abercrombie 8 rebs; Webster 6 assts) at The UN, Melbourne Arena. Crowd: 6,746
SYDNEY KINGS 94 (Ware 17, Louzada 14, Bogut, Bruce 12, Kickert 11, Tate 10; Bogut 11 rebs; Ware 5 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 79 (Sobey 21, Patterson 20, Braun 13; Braun 5 rebs; Hodgson, Patterson, Braun 3 assts) at The Kingdome, Qudos Bank Arena. Crowd: 7,819

Oct 26

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