Hungry Jack's NBL
Lual-Acuil Leads United Over Breakers to Open Blitz
An ominous 37-point outburst from Jo Lual-Acuil has sparked Melbourne United to hold out the New Zealand Breakers for a 90-84 victory to open the NBL Blitz.
United and Breakers were given the honour of opening the NBL Blitz ahead of the 2021/22 season at Melbourne's Sport and Aquatic Centre, and it was an entertaining showcase with New Zealand making it a one possession game late in the piece.
United did lead virtually from start to finish with Lual-Acuil instrumental in getting that early lead on the back of a stunning 17-point opening quarter. Chris Goulding then knocked down some trademark critical buckets down the stretch to maintain Melbourne's lead, but New Zealand wouldn’t go away.
A couple of big plays from new import guard Jeremiah Martin, including an and-one to make it a three-point ball game with just under a minute remaining, made things interesting.
An offensive foul call on Matthew Dellavedova in his first game in Melbourne colours then gave the Breakers a chance, but William McDowell-White's floater wouldn’t fall, and a foul that was deemed unsportsmanlike on Lual-Acuil allowed the United big man to seal the win for the reigning champs.
Neither team shot the ball at a great clip especially from beyond the arc with Melbourne going 5/26 at 19 per cent and New Zealand 9/40 at 22 per cent, but outside of that both coaches would have taken great heart from a lot of what they saw.
Jo Lual-Acuil had a stunning opening quarter to show just how much he could grab the increased role and minutes this season taking over a lot of the role that Jock Landale had.
In the first quarter alone he had 17 points and four rebounds on 6/9 shooting and 5/6 at the line.
He kept it rolling in the second half too to finish the evening with 37 points and 11 rebounds on the back of shooting 13/18 from the field and 11/13 at the foul line.
Chris Goulding was one player who had no trouble finding the bottom of the net either knocking down 4/9 from deep for 15 points to go with five rebounds and three assists.
Brad Newley showed he still has plenty left in the tank on his move south with 11 points and four rebounds for United with Matthew Dellavedova gearing up for his first NBL season as the NBA champion finished with eight points, six assists and five rebounds yet also seven turnovers.
Finn Delany is coming off the best season of his career and is right on track to keep it going by putting up 20 points, four rebounds and two assists for the Breakers.
Jeremiah Martin warmed to the challenge nicely in the second half to end up with 19 points while New Zealand will look for more from fellow import guard Peyton Siva who went scoreless on 0/8 shooting.
The signs were exciting with French prospect Hugo Besson delivering 11 points and five rebounds including a buzzer-beating three heading into half-time. Young big Sam Timmins had a big putback too on the way to 10 points and seven boards.
Both teams face the Sydney Kings next with United playing their old rivals on Monday with the Breakers to face them on Thursday.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL BLITZ
MELBOURNE UNITED 90 (Lual-Acuil 37, Goulding 15, Newley 11)
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 84 (Delany 20, Martin 19, Besson 11)