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R12 Preview: Melbourne v Perth

Who: Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats When: 7pm (AEDT), Sunday 27 December Where: Hisense Arena, Melbourne (Open air game) Watch: Fox Sports; Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Perth 113 (Beal 40, Prather 20, Knight 14) d Melbourne 83 (Kickert 23, Holt 15, Warrick 15), Round 10, Perth Arena THE MATCH-UP Chris Goulding v Jermaine Beal – While the possession battle will likely a key to victory, this pair of streaky shooters are the sparklers on the cake. When Goulding shoots above 40 per cent Melbourne are 8-3, when Beal does likewise the ‘Cats are 7-1. THE STATS Perth have grabbed 86 more offensive rebounds than United this season in just one more game, averaging 13.3 and 9.3 respectively. The Wildcats have forced 56 more opposition turnovers than Melbourne in one more outing, averaging 11.8 and 9.4 respectively. THE STORY Townsville coach Shawn Dennis did some straight talking after his Crocs became the first team to defeat United at home this season. Asked if it would be tough for Melbourne to contend for the title given their weaknesses in the possession game – offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers – Dennis offered a unique perspective. “It would be difficult for any team,” he said. “If you can control the possession game it doesn’t matter how good you are. I could probably beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one if he only had five shots and I had 30 shots. “He’d make all five I’m sure and I’d be posterised all over the world, but I’ve only got to make 6-of-30 to win. You’ve got to rebound, it’s crucial.” At that point United were still sitting pretty at 9-2, but since their lethal three-point game dried up they have struggled to cover their possession deficit, winning just two more contests. While Dennis believed United’s style would make it tough to compete with possession-dominant teams like Perth and New Zealand, he did offer one significant caveat. “Hakim Warrick’s going to make them a different beast … because he is a great rebounder,” he said. Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos has slowly eased the 33-year-old Warrick into the line-up after injury, but the well-travelled NBA veteran has averaged 15 points at 55 per cent in his past five games. Perhaps most importantly his body has got through 55 minutes the past two games, his legs elevating to grab eight offensive rebounds, something that will be crucial against Perth on Sunday. The Wildcats were outworked in Townsville last round, Nate Jawai, Matt Knight and Tom Jervis grabbing only three offensive rebounds between them on 34 missed shots. Their smaller teammates were also guilty of crimes against possession, Damian Martin, Shawn Redhage, Greg Hire and Jesse Wagstaff coughing up 15 turnovers between them, while as a team Perth could only force the Crocs into 10 errors in total. Melbourne should expect a firestorm of intensity if Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson’s post-game reaction is anything to go by. “We got what we deserved,” he said. “We really looked old and slow and sluggish.” THE WRAP The Wildcats have secured 20 more possessions in the two meetings between these teams, and in Round 10 they regularly turned defensive boards and Melbourne miscues into Jermaine Beal triples. United’s woes defending opposition guards continued on Wednesday as Jerome Randle had a field day, and you can be sure Beal and Casey Prather will put just as much heat on Melbourne’s brittle ball-screen defence. The best way for United to limit Perth’s attack is to put the ball through the hole more regularly. Goulding has shot below 40 per cent five times in his past nine games, and the Melbourne offence needs to create some looks in midrange, where CG43 shoots a solid 43 per cent. But creating good looks comes down to boards, and while Majok Majok, Todd Blanchfield and Warrick are all capable, it will take a full team effort from the home team to nullify a Perth team with redemption on their minds.
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