United in victory: Melbourne too good in game one
THE National Basketball League (NBL) finals kicked off on Thursday night, with the final four teams remaining in the hunt for the ultimate prize. There was plenty of hype coming into the clash between Melbourne United and Tasmania JackJumpers at John Cain Arena, especially given the dramatic finish to the regular season. The intensity always goes up a notch in the postseason, as does the atmosphere. That was certainly the case on Thursday, with United feeding off the energy of the crowd.
It was an entertaining affair, as the JackJumpers looked to push the reigning champs on their home deck. However, it is pretty hard to stop United when they are firing. With weapons across the court, Melbourne proved a class above Tasmania, particularly in the second half. In the end, United was able to deliver a dominant final two quarters of play on their way to an 11-point win as they took a 1-0 lead in the semi-finals series.
Melbourne United (74) def. Tasmania JackJumpers (63)
The game kicked off with John Cain Arena rocking, and United’s play reflected that. They scored the opening couple of baskets and set the tone early on. Tasmania was able to finally get its offence going, with Jack McVeigh the real spark, but the JackJumpers still found themselves trailing United by five points at the first break. A big factor was the interior defence of Jo Lual Acuil and his Melbourne teammates, with the visiting side unable to find any easy buckets inside. The second quarter saw Tassie lift and match the output of its opponents. It was an extremely entertaining term, as the margin remained unaffected at the main break of play.
While the JackJumpers impressed in the second term, quarter number three completely belonged to United. The home side was clinical coming out of half time, and tore apart the JackJumpers interior defenders. They were able to do as they pleased when driving to the hoop, and it resulted in a 21-7 third period. Tasmania had plenty to do in the last quarter, and while it was their best of the game, the damage was already done. United were able to close out the game behind sharpshooter Chris Goulding and take the first game in the series. The two teams will lock horns again tomorrow night down in Tasmania, with a sell-out MyState Bank Arena crowd expected for the do-or-die contest for the home team.
United were well-led off the bench by guard Caleb Agada, who scored an equal game-high 16 points, with seven of his 11 field goal attempts finding the bottom of the net. He also pulled down seven rebounds and did it all in just 13 minutes of action. Lual Acuil was also impactful with 15 points, seven boards and four blocks. Josh Adams led the way for the JackJumpers with 16 points of his own, overcoming a quiet start to hit the scoreboard, while McVeigh finished with 15 of his own.