IT was a blockbuster clash that lived up to the hype. The National Basketball League (NBL) concluded Round 18 of play on Monday night, with yet another double-header keeping fans entertained for the fourth consecutive night. Play for the evening was headlined by a massive matchup between the Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United at RAC Arena.
It was a rematch of last year’s grand final, in which United were able to claim the ultimate prize, so it is fair to say the matchup will always mean a bit more to the two sides. The two clubs are always performing at a high level, and season 2021/22 has proven to be no different, so there was plenty of anticipation heading in, with no clear favourite. After four quarters of high-quality action, United were able to chalk out a gritty win to the tune of nine points, maintaining their spot at the top of the standings and further establishing their championship credentials.
Perth Wildcats (75) def. by Melbourne United (84)
In a likely NBL22 finals preview, Melbourne United proved too good for the Perth Wildcats in the Jungle on Monday night. The reigning premiers managed to repeat the result of last year’s grand final, thanks to a ripping final term from the visitors. Fans at RAC Arena were treated to a cracking contest, with some of the competition’s best stars firing from the field in a tense affair. It was a see-sawing affair for the first three quarters, but the final term belonged to United, who outperformed their opponents in the last 10 minutes to claim a nine-point triumph on the road.
The game kicked off with a high-scoring first quarter, with some fantastic play coming from both sides. It was a great showing of three-point shooting, with the two sides looking to get the ball in the hands of their deadliest sharpshooters. A great highlight came in the form of Perth young gun Luke Travers dropping a beautiful no look pass to teammate Matt Hodgson, who threw down the dunk. Melbourne led by two points after an entertaining first term, but Perth took control in the 10 minutes that followed. It was a run that was sparked by their stars in Victor Law and Bryce Cotton, both of whom got involved in the scoring. The Wildcats turned their defecit into a four-point half time lead, and were looking strong heading into the final two quarters.
Merlbourne was able to rally in the third term, erasing the half time margin in the first two minutes of the quarter. Returning championship player Yudai Baba chimed in with a big three, before Matthew Dellavedova and Chris Goulding followed suit. Melbourne’s defence also lifted, constantly thwarting the scoring attempts of the Wildcats, and tying up proceedings heading into the last. They continued their form in the final period, with the duo of Jo Lual Acuil and Shea Ili incredibly influential. Perth could not keep up offensively, as United outscored them by nine in the final term as the visitors broke away to victory.
For the victors, it was a ripping team performance, with no real standout performers. Lual-Acuil top scored with 18, but there were five United players who finished with double-digits. The story was similar for the Wildcats, with their fast paced ball movement resulting in plenty of scoring opportunities.
The second match in the double-header saw the Cairns Taipans sneak past the New Zealand Breakers at MyState Bank Arena on Monday night. Keanu Pinder led from the front with a double-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, as the Taipans continue to finish the season in strong fashion.