Melo Trimble: Attack Mode

Written for by Tom Hersz

Melbourne United had a bad taste in their mouth.

You don’t come away from letting a 16-point lead slip and feel confident. Or do you?

In Game 1 of their semi-final series against the Sydney Kings, Melbourne executed their game plan perfectly – for about 34 minutes. We all know what happened next, but rather than dwelling on the negatives, Coach Dean Vickerman was very quick to focus on what they did well as he knew they could do it again on Monday night.

He just needed to focus on getting his team in the right frame of mind.

That task was made a little harder when he, some of his players and even some of United’s front office staff, received a tirade of abusive messages following their loss on Saturday night.

It added more fuel to the fire for a group that already wanted to prove that the lead they built in Game 1 was no fluke. But it didn’t faze them.

They came into shoot-around on Monday morning with a focus and a sense of calm about the task at hand.

And then they stepped onto Melbourne Arena in front of a raucous crowd and went about executing their game plan once more. Only this time they didn’t just outplay the Kings; United dismantled their opponents.

Melo Trimble – the player who was electric in Game 1 with 34 points – stayed confident, scoring on his first touch and then sparked a key run late in the second quarter that proved the difference in the game.

Coming into Game 2, while he and his teammates wished they could have those final minutes of the series opener back, Trimble said the feeling amongst the group was one of confidence.

“We were like ‘damn we let one go’”, Trimble told NBL Media following their Game 2 win.

“Definitely could’ve ended the series today. But we came out with that confidence that we had in that first game even though we didn’t play the same way. Just had confidence in our plan.”

They had reason to be. Not only did they outplay Sydney for the majority of Saturday’s game, but Melbourne won three straight must-win games to end the regular season too. They won those games in convincing fashion, showing the desperation needed to win, but also a mindset that they believed they would win. United came into this series in great form and it helped them as they faced another must-win situation on Monday night.

“Yeah, desperation and playing aggressive,” Trimble explained of how those three wins helped them get this one.

“That’s one of the main things we had to do in those last three games that we had to win to get into the playoffs. Obviously today [being] a do or die game, we had to play the same way. That’s just how we needed to play.

“Hopefully we have four more games, but we’ve got one Thursday we need to worry about before anything else. Hopefully we can play with that same aggression, attack and knowing that they’re going to come out with a little chip on their shoulder – you know they lost one here by a lot of points – and they think they’re a better team. So, we’ve just got to come out with that mindset; the confidence we had today.”

United attacked relentlessly in Game 2. It was a tight game until late in the second quarter. Following a Sydney time out, it was Melbourne who capitalised when Trimble scored 8 points as part of a 20-0 run to end the half and effectively end the game. What was said in that time out to spark that run?

“Just keep attacking,” Trimble said.

“We put our foot on the gas pedal and kept going. We knew from our last game that was our mistake; we let up. We kinda wanted to keep that same mindset – keep attacking, keep attacking until the end of the game.

“And like I said, we just kept thinking about last game how we had them at their home; we took our foot off the gas and they came back and beat us. So that was our mindset in this game right here to keep attacking, and that’s what we did.”

Even after building a 27-point halftime lead, they kept attacking in the third quarter. That 20-0 run turned into a 38-0 run, as Sydney had no answers. Melbourne just kept on coming, staying in attack mode.

Maybe it was helped by the fact that they had felt personally attacked by those messages over the weekend, but Trimble said it didn’t give him any extra motivation.

“It is what it is,” he said.

“It’s basketball. It was people DM’ing me that were Melbourne United fans; it wasn’t even Sydney fans. It’s stuff that’s been going on all year.

“But I’m a basketball player, I’ve got thick skin and I was able to get through it. I wasn’t even worried about it. I’ve been through it when I was at College, so I’m good.”

He was good. Very good, finishing with 21 points off the bench in support of Shawn Long who had 26 points and 11 boards.

Trimble is now averaging 27.5 points in this series on 48.6% shooting from the field, while he’s hit 8 of 19 three-pointers. His 55 total points make him the high-scorer so far in the NBL20 Finals.

Meanwhile, they’ve held Sydney to 83 points per game, which is down considerably from the 94.4 points the Kings averaged in the regular season.

It may be the best defence Melbourne has played all season and with the fits they’ve given Casper Ware – the former United star who torched them during the regular season – it has been difficult for the Kings to get going. Ware is just 6 for 22 from the field in the series, Andrew Bogut has struggled and Melbourne has won six of the eight quarters in this series.

That has led some to believe Melbourne has Sydney figured out. Does Trimble think so?

“I feel like we have, but at the same time I don’t want to talk too much; I just want Thursday to get here,” he offered.

“For us to play that game and have that same mindset, confidence, with Shea doing what he does and everyone taking care of scoring – Shawn, Chris, the whole team; this is a team collective thing. Thursday’s going to be a big game for us and hopefully we can dominate like we did today.”

One thing is obvious; Trimble is enjoying himself. His first season in the NBL didn’t go too well as the Cairns Taipans finished last. So, Melo is loving his first taste of Finals action.

“Man, I’m having fun,” he admitted.

“It’s a big thing. Last year I was pretty jealous that I didn’t make the playoffs and just seeing that excitement around it.

“Now that I’m here and playing for Dean and with these teammates, you know we’ve been through a lot this year; a lot of ups and downs, so for us to be here right in this exact moment is very special. Hopefully we can take care of business on Thursday.”

Dating back to those final three regular season games, Melbourne has now won 15 of its past 20 quarters. There’s no doubt this group is playing great basketball right now and have looked the better team in this series.

After an inconsistent regular season, is Melbourne peaking at exactly the right time?

“I feel like we are,” Trimble said.

“Those last three games were crucial games. A Cairns team that we hadn’t beaten all year; South East Melbourne with John Roberson – you never know what can happen, so I felt like we needed those wins and we’re coming into the playoffs playing the exact same way.”

It’s hard to argue. They’ve certainly been the more aggressive team in this series and the way they attacked Sydney on Monday in Game 2 was relentless.

Going back to Qudos Bank Arena on Thursday night won’t be easy though. Melbourne is yet to win a game there this season in three tries. Will Weaver and his coaching staff will make adjustments and that place will be rocking with another huge crowd who are desperate for some Finals success.

Melbourne will be full of confidence after levelling the series in convincing fashion and Trimble knows that despite the momentum they’ll carry into Game 3, there are no shortcuts to winning this series. They need to approach the game the same way they did on Monday night and stay aggressive; stay in attack mode.

“Hard practice, watch film, continue to know what we need to get better at, and I feel like that’s what we did for Game 2,” Trimble explained.

“We knew we needed to get better and we executed it to a tee. So I feel like Thursday, even more, everything’s gotta be sharper and just the same mindset we had today.

“Today it could’ve been over for us, so I feel like if we go with that same mindset on Thursday, we’ll be alright.”

Game 3 is Thursday night at 7:30pm AEDT at Qudos Bank Arena, or live on ESPN and SBS Viceland.


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