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R10 Preview: Perth v Melbourne

Who: Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United When: 9.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 10 December Where: Perth Arena Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Melbourne 75 (Goulding 19, Holt 15) d Perth 73 (Knight 17, Jawai 13), Round 4, Hisense Arena, Melbourne THE MATCH-UP Damian Martin v Chris Goulding – While Martin usually defends the opposition ball-carrier, such is the quality of Goulding – and the efficiency of his showing last week – that it would be no surprise to see the NBL’s greatest defender spending time shadowing his Boomers teammate. THE STATS After averaging 13.5ppg at 32 per cent from the floor and 21 per cent from deep across Rounds 8 and 9, Goulding bounced back last week with 22ppg at 63 per cent and 47 per cent respectively. In seven opening quarters at home this season, the Wildcats have outscored opponents 153-111, but in the ensuing second terms they’ve been trumped 151-135. THE STORY Having watched a seemingly safe Wildcats lead almost whittled down by Corey Webster and the Breakers in Round 8, coach Trevor Gleeson was very much looking forward to Damian Martin’s return to full fitness. “Coming down the stretch, at the end Damo will be on the court showing his leadership, getting us in the right shots and getting the ball in the right people’s hands,” he said. Of course, Gleeson’s best-laid plans went awry the next week in Auckland, Martin suffering a setback courtesy of Cedric Jackson’s shoulder and the Breakers blowing Perth out of the water in the final term. But the ‘Cats skipper was back to his inspirational best against Adelaide, his four steals including a memorable snatch-away from Jerome ‘Handles’ Randle to go with a trademark block on Daniel Carlin. “Damo plays at an intensity level that very few players play at,” Gleeson said. “He puts his head in the way, he dives for loose balls, he puts his body on the line and that’s a great asset for him.” This Thursday, the Wildcats may need that asset to be deployed guarding Chris Goulding, whose ability to create shots out of nothing is vital to Melbourne’s chance of a road win. Goulding had a lethally efficient Round 9 as he picked his moments to attack, utilising a Melbourne offence that was functioning much better than previous weeks. “Making shots helps,” a relieved coach Dean Demopoulos said after United snuck past Adelaide. The Melbourne boss still had cause for concern, his team taking 14 of their final 25 field-goal attempts from outside the arc, a recipe for disaster against a Perth team who will rebound and run mercilessly off long shots. But United’s discipline getting the ball inside to Majok Majok and Daniel Kickert in the first 25 minutes left Demopoulos content his team is on the right track. “Having a presence inside helped too, we wanted to go inside-out as much as we could,” he said. “You’ve got to do it strategically, you can’t overdo it, and we’re arriving at a balance in this journey we’re taking.” THE WRAP The Wildcats love nothing better than blowing opposition teams out early at Perth Arena so Stephen Holt and Goulding must weather the storm and make sure the ball moves through hands. United picked apart Adelaide’s disruptive D clinically last Sunday, but Perth’s defensive discipline and physicality is a level above the 36ers at this point. Last time these teams met, the Wildcats completely dominated the glass, pulling in 20 offensive boards and allowing just six, with only their wayward 35 per cent shooting letting United off the hook. But if Nathan Jawai, Matt Knight and Co have their rebounding way again you know what Jermaine Beal and Casey Prather are going to get up to in the open court.
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