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R7 Preview: Melbourne v Townsville

Who: Melbourne United v Townsville Crocodiles When: 7.30pm (AEDT), Friday 20 November Where: Hisense Arena, Melbourne Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Melbourne 93 (Kickert 22, Holt 19, Goulding 14) d Townsville 62 (Steindl 19), Round 3, Hisense Arena, Melbourne THE MATCH-UP Chris Goulding v Jordair Jett - As a three-time Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team member during his days at St Louis University, Jett is the right man to lead the defensive charge on Goulding, who will be desperate to bounce back from his 10-of-31 shooting slump the past two games. THE STATS Against Townsville, Goulding is averaging just 10.5 points at 36 per cent from the field, compared to 21.1 points at 44 per cent against the rest of the league. Melbourne have scored 96 points per game at 50 per cent in two match-ups with the Crocs, who are conceding just 82.6ppg at 44 per cent against the NBL’s six other clubs. THE STORY Townsville have certainly earned the respect of the NBL over the opening six weeks of the season with their never-say-die attitude and defensive toughness. However, one team that has been able to shake their lockdown style has been Melbourne, who have piled up points in transition at a meteoric rate in their two encounters. As New Zealand and Cairns showed in the past two weeks, a key to limiting that damage is not letting Melbourne flow into their offensive sets. Crocs coach Shawn Dennis said both teams had restricted United’s ability to kick the ball ahead in transition, and said it then takes a team effort to deal with the early ball-screen action between Chris Goulding or Stephen Holt and either Daniel Kickert or Majok Majok. “One of the challengers for the bigs is they're so used to running back into the paint to wait, and a lot of teams are setting those early trans pick-and-rolls. If you’re not up ready to defend that, especially against teams like Melbourne, you give them some space,” he said. “Now you’re late, now you’re angle’s wrong and Holt beats you off the dribble, Kickert gets the space to pop and you’re in trouble.” Dennis said tough-as-nails guards Mitch Norton, Corey Maynard and Jordair Jett will have “to be attached early”, while the absence of Brian Conklin and Luke Schenscher leaves a lot of work for Mitch Young and Nick Kay, with Leon Henry likely to give some support at power forward. While low on numbers, Dennis believes his team can learn from the way New Zealand and Cairns avoided having to scramble against Melbourne’s lightning ball movement. “You can’t defend individually in this league,” he said. “If one guy or two guys don’t make that extra effort to rotate we’re in trouble.” But the third-year Crocs play-caller is confident the mental toughness his team has shown all season holds them in good stead. “I think that’s the key to challenging Melbourne, not letting them feel good about themselves and then not panicking when they go on their runs,” he said. THE WRAP Melbourne have shot just 37 per cent from the field the past two games and will no doubt be keen to get their mojo working overtime. Holt and Goulding have had 46 missed shots to only 10 assists in that time, and getting teammates open looks may loosen the shackles they have experienced. In their three wins the Crocs have forced 48 turnovers, compared with a mere 21 in their two losses to Melbourne, and they must find the right balance between pressure and containment. Offensively, Townsville regularly got into the heart of the United defence in their two losses but squandered good opportunities, something they must remedy this Friday.
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