Big man hosts block party as United continue Throwdown dominance
The latest instalment of the Throwdown Series between the two sides had plenty of anticipation surrounding it, given the form of the two sides coming in. United had earned their placement at the top of the standings, delivering dominant performances on a consistent basis, and looking like the side to beat for the 2023/24 season. On the other hand, the Phoenix had overcome a form slump to hand the reigning champions a big loss the week before, and looked back to their best, setting up a tantalising cross-town matchup.
Unfortunately, the game turned out to be a bit of a fizzer, with United in control of proceedings from start to finish. The Phoenix were completely outplayed in nearly all aspects of the game as Melbourne continued to firm as the title favourites after dismissing yet another hopeful contender. In the end, United snagged a 28-point win over South East Melbourne in a one-sided affair.
Although there were plenty of contributors for United, none had a bigger impact than star big man Jo Lual Acuil, who produced an outstanding two-way performance.
SEM Phoenix (78) def. by Melbourne United (106)
Jo Lual-Acuil – 17 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, seven blocks
In a balanced performance from Melbourne United, Lual-Acuil stood above the rest with some magnificent work on both ends of the floor.
Coming into the game, there was plenty of talk around the big man duel between Lual-Acuil and Alan Williams, given both players are genuine stars of the competition and have been playing at star level. Although Williams did as expected and excelled on the boards, Lual-Acuil did an excellent job at limiting his offensive impact.
The United big man and former MVP candidate had a career-high seven blocks, making life extremely difficult for anyone that entered the paint. Whether it was swatting Williams’ potential lay-up, or blocking a would-be drive from South East Melbourne’s smaller players, nothing got past Lual-Acuil in a commanding performance.
He also had 17 points on 8/17 shooting from the field, doing his part in the paint to ensure Melbourne held onto its early lead. He was the leading scorer for the winning side, and took plenty of smart shots throughout the match.
It is well known that at his best, Lual-Acuil is one of the most intimidating big men in the NBL, and that was on full display on Thursday night as he made his presence felt in the win over a fellow championship hopeful.