United takes down Tassie to force game five

IN a fitting finally to a classic series, the 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) Championship Series is going to a fifth and deciding game after Melbourne United defeated the Tasmania JackJumpers by two points at MyState Bank Arena on Thursday night.

Facing elimination at one of the most intimidating venues in the entire league, United had their backs against the wall coming into game four. Tasmania won the previous encounter at the death, and was one win away from claiming the championship.

However, United delivered a gutsy performance on the road, making amends for the previous loss with an extremely clutch performance. With the game on the line late in the match, Melbourne’s leaders stepped up, holding on for an 89-88 win.

The result means the series will now head back to Melbourne for game five, with the winner of that match to claim the ultimate prize.

Tasmania JackJumpers (88) def. by Melbourne United (89)

The JackJumpers got off to a hot start, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and firing up the sold out crowd at MyState Bank Arena. Riding the momentum of game three’s finish, it was evident Tasmania had the faith in its ability to get the job done in four games. However, after both sides had an offensive drought, United returned serve as the JackJumpers could not stop themselves from fouling, and Melbourne’s deficit was cut to three points at quarter time.

The second quarter contained more of the same from Tasmania, as the JackJumpers broke out of the gates and looked in control during the first half of the term. The lead got up to as much as seven points, before Ian Clark took over for Melbourne, helping erase the deficit and impressively take a two-point lead into the main change.

Quarter number three was all about momentum, with both sides going on scoring runs, but never able to truly break away on the scoreboard. Tassie’s lead stood at four points for most of the term, before Chris Goulding knocked down a smooth triple to tie up proceedings. Matthew Dellavedova hit a turnaround jumper on the eve of three quarter time to give his team a one-point lead heading into the last.

Goulding struck again early in the fourth quarter, extending Melbourne’s lead out to five points and putting the JackJumpers on the canvas. However, the JackJumpers maintained their never-say-die attitude, and managed to get themselves a couple of baskets in front in the final minutes of the contest. In the end, Dellavedova hit a clutch lay-up to give United the lead with just 11 seconds on the clock, and Tasmania turned the ball over on the final possession.

Dellavedova was the hero after making a costly mistake in game three, posting 15 points, five rebounds and six assists, while also keeping Milton Doyle quiet and hitting the game-winning shot. Luke Travers was also impressive with 17 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.

Despite not getting the win, Jack McVeigh gave it his all to deliver Tasmania a championship, producing 28 points (11/19 FG), seven rebounds and four steals.

Game five will take place at John Cain Arena on Sunday at 4:00pm.

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