Melbourne United assert dominance over cross-town rivals in Game 1
IT was a one-sided affair as Melbourne United defeated cross-town rival South East Melbourne Phoenix by 18 points (96-78) on Friday. United showcased why they were top of the table in Game 1 of their semi-finals series with a convincing performance from the opening buzzer to lead from go-to-woe.
The Phoenix made all the running in the first few minutes of the opening quarter, piling on seven points straight to steal the lead and create a handy five-point buffer against Melbourne United. But the tables started to slowly turn as Sam McDaniel found his groove, hitting a much needed triple to get United back in the game. That was the exact spark Melbourne needed as the duo of Mason Peatling and Jock Landale asserted themselves on the contest to score with great ease and keep the scoreboard ticking over for United, while the contribution of Scotty Hopson off the bench did plenty of favours for the ladder leaders, producing seven points in the first term alone.
Holding a nice six-point lead at the break, United kicked it up a gear in the second with their defensive and offensive game on point. Forcing five turnovers in the first term alone, the Phoenix were struggling to work the ball down court and have any real potency and unfortunately it did not get any easier as Melbourne went on a scoring rampage, piling on 32 points to 18. Landale set the tone nice and early with his five points to start the quarter before veteran, Chris Goulding showed his wares with three triples to create some real scoreboard separation. Hopson continued on his merry way, finding his stroke from down town as Landale proved to be a thorn in the Phoenix’s side, posting 16 points before half time.
The 20-point half time buffer was always going to be hard to come back from for the Phoenix and while Ryan Broekhoff got the party underway, it was short lived. Their inability to treasure possession was coming back to bite them time and time again while United pounced on their opportunities. the full court defensive pressure stemming from United was palpable as they clamped down on South East Melbourne to stop them scoring for over three minutes, all while pouring on the points with 16 straight to establish a commanding 31-point lead at the final change, 85-54.
With respect on the line the Phoenix came out with a point to prove in the final term and that they did, playing with some real conviction and purpose. They increased their output on the scoreboard, sinking 24 points while limiting United’s chances to capitalise, but it mattered very little as the damage was already done.
Landale had a night to remember, producing 26 points at an impressive 71 per cent from the field. Next best for United was Hopson with 22 points in his 20 minutes on court with his accuracy from the field also crucial, going at 81 per cent. Hopson also picked up three assists. Goulding did his best work in the second term, only finishing with nine points to his name but four rebounds and an assist as Peatling reeled in six rebounds while Jo Lual-Acuil plied his trade with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal. For the Phoenix it was Ben Moore that led the charge with 17 points coming off the bench along with three rebounds, as star Mitch Creek also made his presence felt with 15 points at 60 per cent from the field. Creek also managed four rebounds, six assists and two steals in an attempt to get his side over the line. Keifer Sykes worked hard for his 12 points as Broekhoff managed eight and Kyle Adnam sunk nine points but at a lowly 42 per cent.
One thing the Phoenix will take out of the game was the fact they know they can work themselves back into a match given their last quarter efforts. However if United secure the next win on Sunday – back at Qudos Bank Arena given the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria – then it will be curtains for the Phoenix and a chance for United to lift the premiership.
Photo credit: Jason McCawley