Hungry Jack's NBL
McCarron puts Easter Sunday dagger in Taipans
Mitch McCarron put his original NBL club to the sword with Easter Sunday's game on the line during the fourth quarter to help Melbourne United to the 83-73 victory over the Cairns Taipans.
The two teams met on Good Friday in Melbourne with United making it four wins on the trot with the 95-85 victory, and while the final margin was the same on Sunday at the Cairns Pop-Up Arena, it was up for grabs with just under seven minutes to go.
Cam Oliver had brought the Taipans back within a point with 6:45 left in the game but it was then McCarron time. He played his first 57 NBL games with the Taipans, but he proved Snake killer on Easter Sunday.
He knocked down a three-pointer, converted a three-point play and made another bucket to go on his own personal run of scoring eight straight points in just over the space of a minute.
That turned that one-point lead into a nine-point gap in favour of Melbourne and from there they went on to score the 10-point victory to improve to 15-5 on the season with five consecutive wins to maintain pace with the Perth Wildcats for top spot.
It was another commanding performance on the glass from Melbourne with 11 more rebounds than Cairns including 16 offensive rebounds for 14 second chance points on a night where they did have 12 turnovers and shot just 38 per cent from the floor.
Chris Goulding appeared troubled by an ankle complaint in the second half but still led Melbourne with 15 points. McCarron finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists while Scotty Hopson's second game back saw him deliver 14 points, seven boards and three assists.
Jock Landale had 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists as well for Melbourne while Mason Peatling started in place of the injured Jack White and had nine points.
United coach Dean Vickerman was proud of his team for fighting through how hard the Taipans made them work for the two wins across Easter against them.
"They were tough. Multiple times over the two games we created a 10-point margin and we just couldn’t kill them off. They had a great fighting spirit about them and kept on coming back, and they keep shooting threes that continue to scare you as a coach," Vickerman said.
"They may not have shot it as well as they wanted to tonight but those 35 threes that they take at times are worrying as an opposition coach.
"I thought Scotty (Machado) came out with a different intent for them, he was aggressive the whole night and when he's like that it makes things tougher to guard when he's getting in the paint.
"Jordan Ngatai is becoming a really good player, but for us as that margin kept coming back we never let it get over the hump and didn’t let them get a lead.
"There was some big moments where in the fourth quarter where we were struggling offensively, but Jo Lual-Acuil came up with a big offensive rebound to give us an extra possession.
"There was just some effort plays like that which you need in a two-game weekend where your desire to win an extra possession can get you over the line."
The Taipans gave themselves a chance largely on the back of some hot three-point shooting from Jordan Ngatai and Mirko Djeric. They combined for 9/14 from beyond the arc with Ngatai continuing his career-best run of form with 15 points on 5/7 while Djeric responded well to coming off the bench to go 4/7 for 13 points.
Scott Machado also had 20 points and seven assists for Cairns, and Cam Oliver 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Cairns coach Mike Kelly again couldn’t fault the effort of his team for the most part but there were times he felt it became a little to easy for Melbourne to get important buckets.
"I actually thought that tonight especially after that great push in the second half of the third that we put ourselves in a position to fight, and then hit some big shots and took some really tough shots," Kelly said.
"When we turned it over or took tough shots they were able to push it down and get easier shots. And when we were a little more measured or made shots, we were able to keep it in the half court and we did solid job in the half court. But when we got stretched out they got buckets."
Chris Goulding and Jordan Ngatai traded threes to open the game but it was the Taipan who continued on with it with two more triples in the opening stages to up Cairns up 13-7.
Scotty Hopson steadied Melbourne with five points out of the timeout before Goulding again connected for three and the visitors went into quarter-time leading 24-22.
Melbourne threatened to open up a sizeable gap again early in the second term after being up 13 at the same period on Friday. This time the lead got out to nine with five quick points from Jock Landale, but Scott Machado kept the Taipans within touch.
Mirko Djeric then hit a couple of threes after starting on the bench, but Goulding and David Barlow did the same for Melbourne to see them still up three at half-time on the back of 10 offensive boards, and despite the 17 Machado points.
Jock Landale found some momentum with five quick points early in the second half for Melbourne and then when Yudai Baba hit a three, they were up nine once more. But again the Taipans fired back and it was two triples from Djeric leading the way including that one became a four-point play.
The Snakes landed an 8-0 run to tie scores but Melbourne was up 62-60 by three quarter-time.
The Taipans kept that momentum going to get back within a point on an Oliver dunk in the fourth. But it was McCarron slammed the door shut on them scoring the next eight points, and from there Melbourne was able to make it two 10-point wins inside three days.
The Taipans have a week until playing on the road to the Illawarra Hawks while United will be at home to the New Zealand Breakers on Saturday night.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 12
CAIRNS TAIPANS 73 (Machado 20, Ngatai 15, Oliver 14)
MELBOURNE UNITED 83 (Goulding 15, Hopson 14, McCarron 14)