United stand tall in NZ, eye top spot
Another road game, another old rival and another vital win.
Melbourne United have hit another target, knocking over the New Zealand Breakers 107-87 in Auckland.
United’s Casper Ware braces for impact against Shawn Long.Credit:AAP
This time last year United wondered how they could overcome their old foes from across the ditch but as a much-changed Breakers side on Friday night played fast on offence and fancy-free on defence, it didn't trouble the visitors in the slightest.
The win keeps Melbourne holding a share of top spot while the result is likely the final nail in the Breakers' hopes of a play-off appearance. Any remaining hope is strictly mathematic.
On Monday Melbourne knocked over 2018 grand final foe the 36ers in Adelaide and the same traits which guided that win were apparent here. The reigning champions defended with physicality and were brutally efficient on offence.
At quarter-time Melbourne led by nine, by half-time it was 59-34 and early in the third term it blew out past 30 points. Such margins haven’t been seen since the team's early years in the NBL, as commentator and former Breaker Casey Frank described Spark Arena as sounding like a "mausoleum".
Chris Goulding (24 points, 17 in first half) was knocking down almost every shot while Josh Boone (14 points, 11 rebounds), David Barlow (23 points), DJ Kennedy (13 points, 11 rebounds), Casper Ware (10 points) and others were finding easy baskets almost at will.
Goulding again came off the bench to make a big impact.
"There is a lot of history and I've been on the end of plenty of big losses [in NZ] so it's good to win here the last couple of times," Goulding said.
"Do I want to come off the bench? No. But the team has asked me to do that and as a captain and a leader I have to buy into that 100 per cent.
Josh Boone battles Shawn Long.Credit:AAP
"We are 3-0 now so that's what they need from me and I'll try to bring my best."
The Breakers found some life entering the final term and chipped the margin back below 20 points. But it mattered little other than to Melbourne's percentage and that could be the only thing to disappoint the visitors who continue to battle for top spot.
The Breakers didn't help their own cause with their accuracy, shooting abysmally from outside.
The duel between Boone and fellow NBA import Shawn Long was fierce early and Boone was up for the battle, pulling in rebounds and throwing down two powerful dunks as the margin blew out as the personal contest faded and Melbourne’s dominance grew.
Breakers import Armani Moore led his side with 17 points while Long had 15 and Jarrad Weeks 13.
Melbourne dominated the rebounds 51-34 while they again boosted their assist count with 25 for the game.
The win was the first time in Melbourne history that the team has scored 100 points or more three games in a row.
"This win was massive," Goulding said.
"We knew they were going to come out with energy and we had to beat that but this doesn't mean much if we don't beat them at home on Sunday."
The two sides meet again at Melbourne Arena on Sunday at 5.20pm AEDT.
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