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Melbourne United v Sydney Kings Game Preview

Melbourne United v Sydney Kings When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Saturday 12 November Where: Hisense Arena, Melbourne Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ Hanging on Given how the injury bug has bitten Chris Goulding, Todd Blanchfield and David Barlow, it is not all that surprising Melbourne sit at the bottom of the NBL ladder with 3-6 record. With all of their losses by single figures it has been far from a disastrous start, yet through each defeat the body language of the group has slipped, with acts of frustration becoming more common. Through the disagreements, however, United have continued to fight, almost defeating the Breakers last round despite being desperately short-handed, then mounting an impressive second-half comeback in Wollongong before falling short. “I think the effort overall, always, the last two years has been good,” coach Dean Demopoulos said. “Sometimes the efficiency of it isn’t, sometimes the execution of it isn’t, but I think that the overwhelming majority of the time the intent is the right intent. We’ve just got to get better at what we’re doing, that’s all.” While Melbourne’s energy and focus in the second half against the Hawks was indeed admirable, for the majority of the game it was the home team in charge. Rob Beveridge’s men were aggressive and disruptive defensively, and attacked Melbourne’s weak links relentless when they had the ball, resulting in a match-winning 35 free throws and 22 fast break points. “They got to the foul line a lot with their aggressiveness and we didn’t,” Demopoulos said. “Between the turnovers and the discrepancy in the amount of foul shots it’s hard to overcome.” Melbourne host the Kings at Hisense Arena this Saturday night, and will need to be better prepared for Sydney’s pressure defence, which propelled them to a five-game winning streak and to the top of the table. Get on board Their past three games things haven’t quite gone to plan, however, Cairns and Brisbane taking care of the ball expertly to record a pair of road wins over the Kings. Some small cracks have appeared in the purple and gold too, with frustration creeping in for ex-NBA recruits Josh Powell and Steve Blake as their production off the bench has waned at both ends. That’s where leaders Kevin Lisch and Brad Newley have stepped in – Newley almost single-handedly keeping his team in the game in Brisbane – and coach Andrew Gaze has called on his team to jump on their coattails. “(Brad) was inspirational in that third period, the way he attacked the game and took things on I thought he was fantastic,” Gaze said. “The effort that he gives, the effort that Kevin gives, it’s inspirational to us all, so we’ve got to get everyone going, get everyone on the same page. “Our bench guys tonight didn’t give us what we need. Coming off the bench, whether it’s timing or momentum we’ve got to figure that out, but we need more productivity from our bench.” Which Melbourne? One of the big questions for Saturday’s clash is what style of game United will deploy. Under Demopoulos they have traditionally been given freedom to run-and-gun or exploit individual match-ups in the half-court. However, in their Round 5 overtime loss to the Breakers, Melbourne showed improved patience and a willingness to move the basketball before settling for on-ball action and perimeter shots. This is something that has tested the Kings over the past two weeks, who have been unable to generate the same offensive spark from their D, only winning points off turnovers by a combined three points in a trio of slow-paced contests with the Taipans and Bullets. “Really that’s been the story of the last three games for us,” Lisch said. “We’ve played Cairns and Brisbane, they're fairly similar teams in a lot of ways. I think we did some good things, at times we lost our focus, we have a lot to work on but that’s a good thing.” If Sydney can be held to half-court basketball their offensive execution comes into focus, something that hasn’t been a constant this season, but Gaze isn’t too concerned just yet. “Offensively, one wise man once said to me ‘operation successful, patient dies’. A lot of time you execute real well, get the shot that you want but don’t put the ball in the hole,” he said. “We didn’t do it well at crucial moments … six minutes to go we hit the lead in the last quarter and then unfortunately from there it went pretty pear-shaped. It was a tough one for us but we’ve got to regroup and look ahead to Saturday night.” Tough to guard Match-up issues abound for both teams in this game. David Andersen is unlikely to be able to defend the strength of Powell or Aleks Maric inside, and is no match for the all-court game of Greg Whittington. At the other end, Sydney’s centres can’t chase Andersen to the perimeter and their four-men will struggle with him in the post. If Maric takes Andersen then Whittington and Tom Garlepp will have their work cut out keeping Majok Majok off the glass. With Cedric Jackson released mid-week, United will be searching for a match-up for Lisch. Nate Tomlinson has the dogged determination but is undersized to deter the MVP’s pull-ups, while Owen Odigie has the length but lacks the experience to handle Aussie Kev’s cunning. Ramone Moore has excellent length for a guard, something Lisch, Blake and Jason Cadee don’t possess. Will Gaze slide Newley down to the two-spot defensively to combat Melbourne’s number one perimeter weapon? The absence of Blanchfield makes guarding Newley a difficult proposition. Barlow returns but throwing him straight into the Newley frying pan is a big ask, meaning Melbourne may ask Odigie to step up and match the Boomers veteran’s energy. The 23-year-old from the McKinnon Cougars has never been known to back away from a challenge, however, and he set one for his team if they're to stop Sydney’s deadly open-court game and record a drought-breaking win. “Looking after the ball,” he said after the loss to the Hawks. “Eighteen turnovers isn’t going to cut it. We really have to look at ourselves and come back next week and concentrate on the little things.”
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