SOME teams just continue to win, even with their backs against the wall. This was certainly the case on Saturday night, when Melbourne United took on the Perth Wildcats at John Cain Arena on Saturday night, in a tantalising matchup between two competition heavyweights. Heading into the matchup, it was a hard result to predict, because at their best, both sides have been unstoppable. However, United were coming off a shock loss to the JackJumpers in Round 10, while the Wildcats have also proven beatable themselves.
In a rematch of last year’s grand final, fans were treated to a cracking contest, with the two teams producing some high-quality basketball throughout the match. In the end, United were able to inflict more pain on the Wildcats, repeating the result from last year’s decider by claiming an impressive win, this time to the tune of six points.
The reigning champions found themselves on the back foot early in the contest, with their offence coming to an immediate standstill in the opening term. They simply9 could not get themselves on the scoreboard, with plenty of shots rattling away from the bottom of the net. Conversely, the Wildcats were firing on all cylinders in this quarter, taking a 13-point advantage into the first break. United were able to flip a switch in the second and third periods, dominating play in this time to outscore their opponents 63-32 in this time. They headed into the final term with an 18-point lead, with their chances of winning looking a safe bet at this time. However, Perth was able to make things interesting in the final term, producing a dominant display in the last 10 minutes, but the class of Melbourne was too strong as they held off their opponents to climb back to the top of the standings.
The shooting percentages of United held them in good stead for majority of the match, proving to be much more efficient from two-point range and at the free-throw line. Their opponents were more reliable from behind the arc, but the slim advantage in this area was not enough to make up for the deficit in the categories listed above. United were also able to out-rebound their opponents, by 10, largely thanks to the efforts of Caleb Agada and Jo Lual Acuil, both of whom were able to pull down 13 boards.
The victors were once again led by Lual-Acuil, who recorded another double-double as his strong run of form continues. The big man racked up 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in a powerful performance, with his name truly in the conversation as the best two-way center in the league at the moment. He had some good assistance from former NBA champion Matthew Dellavedova (18 points, five assists), sharpshooter Chris Goulding (16 points) and dynamic guard Agada (15 points, 13 rebounds) in a terrific team effort from Melbourne.