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Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats Game Preview

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats When: 3pm (AEST), Sunday 23 October Where: Hisense Arena, Melbourne Broadcast: NBL TV; SBS; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ (delayed) United lockdown The biggest news coming out of Melbourne United’s win over the Brisbane Bullets on Thursday was the injury to star guard Chris Goulding. “He’s irreplaceable, you don’t replace him,” coach Dean Demopoulos said. But perhaps just as big a story was the way Melbourne dispatched the dour Bullets. Last season, Melbourne’s average winning score at home was over 90 points, but against Brisbane they grinded out a 78-70 result. While their half-court offence struggled at times against Brisbane’s physicality, United’s locked-in defensive effort held their visitors to 40 per cent shooting and forced 16 turnovers – including 11 in the game-defining first half – generating repeated easy scores in transition. “It was what we’ve been trying to do all year, some days you do it better than others,” Demopoulos said. “I thought we didn’t allow missing shots or not doing well on the offensive end to creep into our defensive mindset, and I thought we took care of the ball.” Melbourne had a similar triumph early last season when they pipped Perth 75-73 at Hisense Arena, and Demopoulos doesn’t seem worried if this Sunday’s clash between the two teams turns out just the same. “It was a tough, grind-it-out game which I'm very, very used to over the years ,probably more used to than the type of game we play with a bunch of threes and up-and-down the floor,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to dance different dances.” Good Knight The two stories to come out of Perth’s hard-fought win over the Hawks on Friday were the typically rock solid return of Matt Knight and the glimpse of new import Andre Ingram’s money three-point shot. “Matty was fantastic, he was quality in the first quarter. He’d been training like that for the last week and it’s good to have the big fella big in there to give us that extra punch,” coach Trevor Gleeson said. Knight produced 12 points at 67 per cent, eight rebounds and two assists in just over 25 minutes, his trademark martialling at the defensive end just as important. Knight’s battle with David Andersen on Sunday could have a huge bearing on the result, with both more than capable of scoring inside and also finding open shooters when the defence collapses. Melbourne struggled with Andersen on the court in the opening three games – outscored by 26 points – as the long-time European club gun adjusted to the NBL tempo, constantly late with his defensive position and looking rushed at the offensive end. “David’s a pro, he’s been around the world, a few times, and he’s just trying to get his sea legs here in this league, trying to get an idea of how it’s done,” Demopoulos said after game three. He was right. The past two games have seen Andersen’s composure return – United 32 points to the better when he was on the hardwood – and the veteran stepping up in a leadership role. “Dave Andersen said at the end of the game we all have to step up with Chris being out, everybody, not just one person,” guard Ramone Moore revealed. “For now we all just have to go in and do our job and do it even better now since he’s out.” Big players, big plays Moore and Nate Tomlinson will be leaned on more, particularly when it comes to limiting Ingram, who showed fresh off the plane on Friday that he means long-range business, nailing a cold-blooded game-sealing triple in transition. “I just knew that I was going to take it, that’s all I knew,” Ingram said. “You’re playing with the clock when you get under a minute in the fourth, you’re kind of thinking do we take this one or not, but coach made it very clear if you’re open, take it. “I think I had passed one up a minute or two before and I just decided that wasn’t going to happen again.” If recent history is anything to go by this game could be decided by a similar clutch moment. Last season, three of the four clashes were decided by two baskets or less, and with the level of talent on display expect this to be another tight and physical affair. Casey Prather v Todd Blanchfield is a match-up of the two hottest wingmen in the league, Damian Martin facing Cedric Jackson is always worth the price of admission, Knight and Andersen are two proven stars, while Jameel McKay and Majok Majok will bring the energy and athleticism. Perth’s success comes from pushing the tempo after defensive stops while limiting their opponent’s ability to do the same, and coach Gleeson liked what he saw against the Hawks. “We’re getting there, we can see the team growing together, and I love how in pressure situations we step up to the plate” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the tempo of the game right and most of the time we had that tonight.” Demopoulos is comfortable his team will adjust to however the game is played and get the job done, even with Goulding on the sidelines. “I’m real confident with the guys who have practiced us for extended periods of time. I always feel like we’re going to do the right thing - that’s not true – most of the time I do,” he laughed.
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