R10 Preview: Melbourne United vs Tasmania JackJumpers

When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 6 February 2022

John Cain Arena, Melbourne

ESPN; Kayo; 10 Peach; 10 Play; Sky Sports NZ

Who won the last time?
Melbourne 76
(Lual-Acuil 19, Goulding 14, Agada 12) d Tasmania 72 (Adams 23, Magette 15) – Round 5, MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

When a Chris Goulding triple put Melbourne eight in front after just three minutes it looked like a predictable win was on the cards for the reigning champs. But the expansionists were having none of that, Josh Magette sparking a Tassie run before Josh Adams caught fire and put Tassie 10 ahead in the second. It was a horrid grind after half-time, but Melbourne’s inside dominance and key buckets from Caleb Agada and Jack White proved the difference.

What happened last start?

The second half on Friday night wasn’t much cleaner, but this time the JackJumpers were on the right end of the scoreboard thanks to an incredible 17-2 second-quarter run. Magette and Will Magnay were the stars as Tasmania played their best two-way basketball of the season, and then after half-time their trademark D ensured there was no Kings comeback.


United were on the wrong end of an overtime thriller in Adelaide last round. Thoroughly outplayed, Melbourne rode some good fortune to seemingly have the game in their grasp before Dusty Hannahs forced the extra period, where the home team closed out a contest where United failed to find any consistent scoring avenues other than Jo Lual-Acuil.

Who’s in form?

Jo Lual-Acuil – In Adelaide, the United big man was on fire with 23 points in 29 minutes on 9/12 shooting, including 13 in the fourth and overtime. In contrast, his teammates managed a wayward 18/67 from the field. Last time against Tassie, JLA smoked with 19 points in 22 minutes on 8/11 shooting, with 16 of those points scored at the rim or the foul line.


Will Magnay – Big Will was sidelined that day, and the JJs interior defence is a completely different story without him. Magnay’s 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks only tell a fraction of his impact against the Kings, his ability to affect the on-ball defensively and still protect the rim extraordinary. His battle with Jo Lual-Acuil will go a long way to determining this result.

Who needs to be?

Chris Goulding – Remarkably, CG43 is 4/30 in his past two games – with Melbourne just squeaking past Brisbane and falling to Adelaide – and he has shot 23 per cent across the past four. In Round 5 he only took 8 field goals against the JJs as Jo Lual-Acuil and Ariel Hukporti dominated inside, but with Magnay back Melbourne need their skipper firing again.


Josh Adams – He almost dragged the JJs to victory over United last time, his 23 points one of the best slashing displays against the champs. He was 5/7 at the cup and 3/5 from midrange, getting catches after movement to avoid arm-bars, then attacking on-balls and mismatches at pace. For Tassie to post a winning score they need more of the same from JA.

Who’s statting up?
 - The JackJumpers were +17 in the possession game against United in Round 7. Over the rest of the season, Melbourne are +2 per game


 - Melbourne shot 23/34 (67%) from two-point range against Tassie. Against other opponents the JackJumpers have given up 52 per cent


 - Lual-Acuil and Hukporti shot 11/16 on twos against the JackJumpers. In Adelaide, JLA shot 9/11 while the rest of the team made just 14/38

 - In the past two games, Magette and Jack McVeigh have shot 17/33 from outside (52%), while the rest of the JJs have managed just 9/35 at 26 per cent

Who’s matching up?

Matthew Dellavedova v Josh Magette – Tasmania got after United in Round 5, and even Delly felt the pressure with five turnovers. In United’s three losses and three close wins, Dellavedova has averaged 3.7 cough-ups, compared to 1.6 in five double-figure wins. His ability to attack Tassie’s four-men on ball-screens and make good decisions will be critical.

After some early shot selection woes, Magette’s decision-making is humming, averaging 18.7 points at 45 per cent from range in the past three games to go with 5.7 assists and just 1.3 turnovers. No doubt Melbourne will try to manhandle the lightly built PG, who went 4/20 and dished just 2 dimes last time, but he is playing with far greater confidence now.

Who’s talking the talk?

If there are two teams that like it rough, it’s Melbourne and the JackJumpers, the Hungry Jack's NBL’s two best defensive units.

United's defensive rating is 94.6 and Tasmania's 98.9. The rest of the competition average 107.4 with no one below 102.

Last time these teams met the points flowed early, but neither of them was happy about that, and it turned into a ‘no blood, no foul’ kind of contest.

It started when MiKyle McIntosh skied for a spectacular one-handed jam in transition midway through the second term. Having none of it, Dave Barlow and Shea Ili hand-checked him in mid-air to avoid the easy score. No blood? No foul.

Then Calen Agada beat Josh Adams on the break, but rather than give up an easy score, Adams turned his shoulder to bump the Nigerian star as he attacked the hoop. No blood? No foul.

Dave Barlow clubbed Sam McDaniel, Jarred Bairstow tried to wrestle Ariel Hukporti. No one went to the foul line. This was old-school Pistons style basketball and it’s how both coaches like it.

After 62 points were scored in a blistering opening 13 minutes, both teams managed just 86 the rest of the way home as defence and physicality ruled.

The JackJumpers managed a similar slow down on the Kings on Friday, giving up 36 points in a tick over 16 minutes, then just 34 more as they eked out their club’s first three-game win streak.

“We’re living in this world that I was hoping we would live in, holding teams somewhere in the 70s and us getting closer to the 80-point mark,” coach Scott Roth said.

Jaylen Adams tormented them early, while Will Magnay defending Jarell Martin on the three-point line opened up easy scores for the Kings.

But Matt Kenyon stepped up to the plate to shut down the Kings’ superstar point guard.

“He got going early and I wasn’t too happy with my defence to be honest, that’s my job to stop the best guard on the team, and Jaylen Adams is a really good player, he’s a tough guard,” Kenyon said.

“I had to change a few things, get up into him, make him feel uncomfortable and all the guys supported me, Mags really had my back in the paint blocking shots.”

Once Roth adjusted his defence, and Sydney went away from stretching big Will away from the key, Magnay changed the game with his interior presence.

“He’s a monster now,” coach Roth said.

“The last three or four games he’s put in a lot of extra work, he’s physically getting stronger and better, a tremendous pick-and-roll coverage guy that anchors our defence, smart, tremendous shot-blocker and he’s just been fantastic for all of us.”

The Kenyon-Magnay duo will be incredibly important as Tasmania try to curtail a fired-up Chris Goulding, who went 0/14 in Adelaide last round.

“Another great shooter, another great player in this league, it’s really enjoyable going up against these guys, it’s going to be a tough match-up on Sunday and I look forward to it,” Kenyon said.

Goulding was philosophical about his string of misses post-game, but rest assured he has got thousands of reps up this week.

“When you set a high standard for yourself and you have a terrible performance it’s disappointing, it’s part of the game, but the most disappointing thing is we leave here with a loss after doing so much work on this road trip,” he said.

“There are also guys, myself, some others, that will look at their performances and know that’s unacceptable.”

For coach Vickerman, while a drop off was disappointing, it had been on the cards.

“We’d been on a long road stretch and that was our seventh (game) … there was some tired decision-making that we made in the first half,” he said.

“I thought the defence wasn’t quite at the level we needed, but it was still pretty solid. But our decision making at the other end, I think we had four stops in a row and we come down on four possessions, outnumbered break and we just didn’t complete those, get fouled or get a good shot and often we turned it over.”

The reality is Melbourne have set an incredible standard this season, and they will bounce back through their defence, rebounding and hunger for loose balls.

“We just saw some little drop-offs … and we've got to continue to remind ourselves that that’s what it takes to win basketball games, we've got to do that for sustained periods,” Vickerman said.

The fun bit for fans is that’s what Tasmania does incredibly well too, so the champs are in for a brutal test of their NBL22 credentials in front of their home fans, especially with Hukporti out and Jack White unavailable to slow down the hot hand of McVeigh.

“I'm looking forward to playing everybody, it doesn’t matter when or where or how, you prepare yourself, you do the work and these guys will be prepared to play on Sunday,” Roth said.

“These guys I've mentioned, Magnay, (Kenyon), we have a lot of guys on our team that have chips on their shoulders, that are very much in the proving mode, kind of that underdog mentality and they just come out swinging every day at practice, every game and I love them.”


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