SF3 Preview: Melbourne United vs Tasmania JackJumpers

When: 7.30pm (AEST), Monday 2 May, 2022

John Cain Arena, Melbourne

ESPN; Kayo Freebies; Sky Sports NZ

Who won the last time?
Tasmania 79
(McVeigh 15, McIntosh 13, Magette 12) d Melbourne 72 (Goulding 18, Agada 14, Lual-Acuil 13) – Semi-Final Game 2, MyState Bank Arena, Hobart

If Game 1 was WWE, then Game 2 must have been a Rumble in the Jungle, and Tassie struck first after being manhandled in the series opener. Melbourne were held to just 12 points in the opening 12 minutes and the locals surged 11 ahead in the second term, before Shea Ili and Co found some early offence to break the shackles and pull within four at the break.

The JackJumpers pulled away again, but 11 points in three minutes from Chris Goulding and a big Caleb Agada triple put United ahead. From there the grind was real, both teams managing just 31 points in the next 10 minutes, but two monster Jack McVeigh triples from Bunnings and a pair of tough MiKyle McIntosh finishes sealed an incredible W in style.

Who’s in form?

Caleb Agada – Across the past three games, where Melbourne’s O has been stifled by the JJs, Agada has been superb with 17.3 points at 49 per cent and 6.7 rebounds, United +1 with their import on the floor and -17 with him resting. His hands-on defence and ability to generate early scores with his strength and speed will be vital to posting a winning score on Monday.

Josh Magette – While ‘Gette ain’t perfect, he has been the underrated maestro of Tassie’s upstart season, and he demonstrated that in Game 2 by not coughing the ball up once in 32 minutes despite United’s constant physicality. The JackJumpers shot 44 per cent and had 16 assists to nine turnovers on Saturday, and a large part of that was Magette setting the table.

Who needs to be?

Josh Adams – Melbourne made Adams carry the ball as much as possible against Ili and Delly in Game 2 and it worked, taking him out of his preferred spots and leading to a six-point, 2/8 shooting, four-turnover night. Scott Roth would be looking to find JA driving lanes after ball movement given their leading free-throw taker has attempted just four in the series.

Jo Lual-Acuil – JLA had 15 points, seven rebounds and six blocks in Game 1 and was on track for a similar night Saturday when foul trouble intervened. In 23 minutes, he had 13 points, six boards, three assists and three swats, with Tasmania struggling to defend the giant centre on back-screen action. How often United can find Jo could be the determining factor in the decider.

Who’s statting up?

 - In the past three games against Tassie, Lual-Acuil and Agada have averaged 30.7 points at 47 per cent, while their teammates combined have scored 38.3ppg at 33 per cent  

 - In five minutes late in the second quarter and six minutes surrounding three-quarter time, Melbourne scored a combined 40 points on 6/10 from long range. In the other 29 minutes of Game 2, they scored 32 points on 0/24 from the arc

 - Melbourne shoot the three-ball at 34 per cent this season and Tasmania 32 per cent. If both were hitting at that clip United would be +25 in this series instead of +4. However, they have averaged just 5.8 triples at 22 per cent in five games against the JJs

 - When Jack McVeigh hits three triples or more the JackJumpers are 7-1. In wins, McTrey averages 6.3 three-point attempts, compared to just 2.8 in defeats

Who’s matching up?

Chris Goulding v Matt Kenyon & Sam McDaniel – You have to credit this JackJumper pair, who have now harried CG43 into 9/35 shooting over the past three games, including 4/23 from distance. However, they haven't forced Goulding into shots he can’t make, and it’s time for the skipper to stand up and deliver. Kenyon and McDaniel provided 11 points on 2/3 from outside, eight rebounds and five assists in Game 2, matching’s CG’s offensive output.

Jack White v Jack McVeigh – Last off-season, who could have guessed this pair of Jacks would meet in the playoffs and it would be McVeigh owning the battle? McTrey has scored 30 points at 52 per cent so far, with Tasmania outscored by 12 points in the 16 minutes he’s rested. White had some monster o-boards in Hobart, but he settled for three ugly triples and committed four turnovers – Melbourne need him attacking the rim and finishing.

Who’s talking the talk?

When asked what the JackJumpers need to do to win Game 3, Scott Roth’s answer was characteristically straight forward.

“Score one more point than them,” he said.

They managed seven more on Saturday night, and while much of the focus is on Xs and Os, with this series a retrospective celebration of the Pistons-Bulls, or Magic-Tigers or even the 2013 Breakers-Wildcats, it will likely come down to something simpler than that.

“They outscrapped us in Melbourne and outworked us, and their workrate was extremely high and they're extremely talented and athletic – they're good,” Roth said.

“Maybe it was a little bit of a wake up because that’s what we've been doing to other teams ... I thought the workrate from us across the board from the opening tip was incredible, the building was electric, the fans really gave us all a boost.”

Loose balls, contested rebounds and the ability to hit contested shots after broken-down offence are kings in this grind, and Josh Magette, Jack McVeigh and MiKyle McIntosh provided the latter in Game 2, scoring all 18 of Tasmania’s points in the final 7:30.

The JackJumpers didn’t win the offensive rebounding battle, out-boarded by five, but they won second chance points 15-14 courtesy of Fabijan Krslovic and Jared Bairstow.

That pair, along with McIntosh, have grown into a peculiar three-headed monster that have held their own against Jo Lual-Acuil and Ariel Hukporti, with Melbourne’s emerging Next Star almost a non-factor in the series to date.

While the first two provide grunt, McIntosh adds an element of class. In 36 minutes, he’s provided 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, and someone else for the United defence to worry about so they can’t constantly focus on Magette, Adams and McVeigh.

That's particlarly important with United blowing up the JackJumpers' repeat-screening action, forcing Roth's men to play more off the bounce and off the cut.

“He’s obviously grown in a lot of areas … (into) what I thought he would be, a mismatch kind of guy with skills sets that are a little bit unique,” Roth said.

“He continues to play very well, he only played 16 minutes and they were obviously hugely impactful for us.”

With both teams struggling to create and make looks from outside against elite defence, that interior battle – and whether Tassie can limit Lual-Acuil – could well determine who takes on Sydney in the NBL Grand Final.

“I look at this scoresheet and I see multiple guys with two and three and four rebounds, gang rebounding and helping each other. The effort across the board, anyone that came in just played their role, did their job and that’s all we ask of these guys,” Roth said

“Our workrate with our bench with multiple guys being on (Lual-Acuil) from JB and Fab and MiKyle, their workrate was fantastic.

“He’s a heck of a player obviously and super-skilled. I expect him to bounce back on Monday and probably be really good, but we’re going to continue to do what we do, which is play hard and be an irritant and try to get after people and make them uncomfortable.”

They achieved that aim in Game 2.

“The physicality they came out with in the first quarter was another level, something similar to the way we played at home,” Dean Vickerman said.

“We found some offensive sets that were pretty good and Delly did a good job of getting organised, the three-ball wasn’t good for us, I think we were 1/12 at the half and it was about finding ways to free up the perimeter and we found a set that was pretty good for it.”

That set was in large part responsible for Goulding, Lual-Acuil and Hukporti combining for 18 points in the third term.

While Andrew Gaze was in conniptions in commentary that Goulding wasn’t locked and trailed on stagger screens, the reality is Melbourne’s previous Spanish action had Scott Roth demanding Matt Kenyon and Sam McDaniel be ready to tag the bigs on backscreens.

Melbourne’s variations forced the Tasmanians to pick their poison, and if their power forwards can start dropping the three-ball on Monday then the JackJumpers won’t be able to defend both inside and out.

“We got 33 (triples) up, we make six. CG they were defending him and he takes some tougher ones, but I had some good looks, other guys had good looks, we feel confident we can knock some of those down,” Dellavedova said.

They also need to find more baskets in transition – leading fast break points 25-15 in the series – but that’s easier said than done against a Tasmanian team that could easily man the Gauntlet in the 90s television series, Gladiator.

“There’s definitely some speed humps as you run down the floor,” Vickerman said.

“It’s what they do, it’s something they chart, hitting people and contesting people as they run down the floor.

“We've got to keep finding ways to navigate it and be better. We found our pace the other night (Game 1) when we got stops, we didn’t get as much pace and free-flowing basketball tonight.”

And now the talking is over. Either Melbourne will get the job done and progress to their fourth grand final in five years to defend the crown, or Tasmania will continue living out the fairytale.

“There’s nothing like playoffs or finals basketball,” Dellavedova said.

“Everything goes up a level. It’s physical, it’s competitive, it’s those 50-50 balls that they came up with tonight so you’ve got to give them credit, those are the ones we came up with in Game 1.

“It’s who wants it more, and we’ll be ready to go.”

The JackJumpers are underdogs as per usual – particularly without their remarkable home crowd that is reminiscent of Townsville at its peak – but they are an impressive 7-6 on the mainland in their debut season, including a pair of huge victories at Melbourne Park.

“We've stuck together on the road all year, we've found a nice little rhythm on our road trips,” Magette said.

“We know when we go on the road it’s just the 12 guys in the locker room, against whoever else is in the stands. Guys stick together and our intensity and our effort, we feed off that.

“We were able to set the tone tonight in the first three or four minutes and that’s going to be huge for us on Monday night.”


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