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R7 Preview: New Zealand v Melbourne

Who: New Zealand Breakers v Melbourne United When: 3pm (AEDT), Sunday 22 November Where: Vector Arena, Auckland Watch: Fox Sports (Live and in HD); Sky Sports NZ; NBL Live App Last time they met: Melbourne 87 (Goulding 21, Holt 21) d New Zealand 86 (Abercrombie 24, Cedric Jackson 16, Webster 15), Round 5, Hisense Arena THE MATCH-UP  Corey Webster v Chris Goulding – Tom Abercrombie stole the show in the teams’ last meeting, but Webster won’t have another off shooting night, especially at Vector Arena, while Chris Goulding demolished the Breakers with a fourth-quarter blitz the last time he played in this venue. THE STATS In his past three games in New Zealand, Goulding has averaged 23.3 points and 3.0 assists, shooting 53 per cent from two-point range and scoring 47 of his 70 points inside the arc. Webster has averaged 21.4 points at 52 per cent from three-point land in his past 10 games at Vector Arena, including 42 points on 9-of-14 from the arc in two games against Melbourne. THE STORY Earlier in the season, Melbourne United star Chris Goulding prophetically announced his team wanted to be the bad guys away from home. “Teams like ours want to play on the road in front of booing fans,” he said. “We want to play in front of fans who don't like us, we want to wreck their night.” When Goulding arrives at Vector Arena for Sunday’s blockbuster clash with New Zealand he will have got his wish. Loved in Melbourne, Goulding is certain to be public enemy number one across The Ditch after he controversially drew an unsportsmanlike foul on Corey Webster to help pinch a Round 5 win even he felt the Breakers deserved. That concession didn’t prevent a fuse being lit under the defending champs, however, even resident nice guy Tom Abercrombie developing a mean streak when it comes to Melbourne. “That pissed-off feeling we had after that game, we need to carry that through and play with that little chip on our shoulder and a little bit of anger," he said. The Breakers were outstanding in that clash, holding Melbourne to 37 per cent from the field and 25 per cent from long range, while shooting 44 and 38 per cent themselves. While United’s ability to get to the free-throw line ultimately delivered them victory, Webster left Hisense Arena feeling his team was on track for back-to-back championships. Of course, after Friday’s shock defeat to Townsville made in two in a row, Melbourne’s title charge has hit a hurdle, and experienced big man Daniel Kickert thinks a visit to the NBL’s powerhouse club will show exactly what his team is made of. “If we show up like we did tonight (against the Crocs) it’s not going to be a fun night for us,” he said. “If tonight or last week isn’t enough of a wake-up call then that’s a concern, so I think this will be a good test.” United have been forced out of their trademark high-speed game three outings in a row, and Kickert feels it’s more about effort than Xs and Os to get Sunday’s game on their terms. “For us it starts at the defensive end, not giving up easy points, out-hustling … and once we do those little things I think the offence will always be there,” he said. THE WRAP  Import Hakim Warrick returns from injury on Sunday, and while Demopoulos said the 33-year-old may take some time to get back to his best, the NBA veteran’s athleticism will be important against Alex Pledger and Charles Jackson, who combined for 27 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks against Sydney. In the half-court Melbourne’s defence will struggle to contain the penetration of Cedric Jackson and the multiple scoring options Abercrombie and Webster possess. However, if Warrick, Kickert, Majok Majok and Todd Blanchfield can match New Zealand on the boards United can unleash Stephen Holt and Chris Goulding in the open floor.
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