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R5 Preview: Melbourne v New Zealand

Who: Melbourne United v New Zealand Breakers When: 3.00pm (AEDT), Sunday 8 November Where: Hisense Arena, Melbourne Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ (pop-up channel); NBL Live App Last time they met: New Zealand 88 (Webster 17, Cedric Jackson 16) d Melbourne 75 (Dennis 18, Kickert 15), Round 15, 2014/15, Vector Arena, Auckland THE MATCH-UP Chris Goulding v Corey Webster – The two hottest scorers in the NBL going head-to-head, trying to keep the league’s two longest winning streaks rolling. THE STATS Goulding is averaging 20.3 points and 3.6 assists, shooting 45 per cent on field goals, 37 per cent on triples and 76 per cent on free throws. His season high was 31 points against Sydney. Webster’s numbers are 25.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals, shooting 46 per cent from the field, 39 per cent from range and 91 per cent from the stripe. His high score is 35 against Cairns. THE STORY Sometimes in sport, the word superstar gets used a little too often, but when it comes to pure offensive talents, both Chris Goulding and Corey Webster deserve that title. Last season in Spain’s Liga Endesa, the second best national league on the planet, Goulding showed what he could do against Spanish royalty. He knocked in 20 points against powerful Valencia, scored 19 against perennial European giants Barcelona, and compiled 15 points and four assists against Euroleague champions Real Madrid. This season, however, Goulding has taken his offensive game to a new level, consistently making shots that evoke whispered comparisons to NBA phenom Steph Curry. His improvement hasn’t surprised United coach Dean Demopoulos, however, who said he is “more in awe of his work ethic than what the outcome is”. “When he makes a mistake he’s the first to admit it and realise it and try to learn from it, he’s been terrific,” Demopoulos said. Webster returned from his stint as a back-up point guard in the New Orleans Pelicans pre-season and has thrived in his more natural shooting guard spot. But his scoring outburst to start the season is nothing new, Webster’s just transferring his incredible international form from the past two years onto the NBL stage. The Breakers Academy product burned Turkey on the opening day of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup with 22 points, then almost carried New Zealand to the quarter-finals with 26 points against global powerhouse Lithuania. Webster ran rings around Australia’s vaunted backcourt in front of 15,000 fans at Rod Laver Arena earlier this year, and Breakers coach Dean Vickerman believes he inspires “fear” in defenders with his ability to hit from anywhere at any time. “He’s got so many little stutters to his game, and he can still attack and that’s the fear, that he’s still going to attack the rim on you,” Vickerman said. THE WRAP Two genuine marquee scorers in two highly-talented and disciplined teams. New Zealand are experts at controlling the tempo, making opponents play slow while generating pace out of their defence. They’ll need all their experience to slow this high-octane Melbourne team, however. The absence of Mika Vukona and Tai Wesley could impact the Breakers’ ability to disrupt the ball-screen, a staple of Melbourne’s offence, but with players like Webster, Goulding, Cedric Jackson, Stephen Holt, Tom Abercrombie and Todd Blanchfield on the floor this game will likely come down to big-time players making big-time plays.
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