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GAME REPORT

United blow away brave Kings in last 17 minutes

The final scoreline suggests otherwise but the increasingly undermanned Sydney Kings threw the gauntlet down to Melbourne United on Sunday but the league-leaders answered the challenge to make it 11 straight wins in style.

The final scoreline of 103-78 suggests it was yet another dominant performance from Melbourne United who continue to enjoy the comforts at home at John Cain Arena on Sunday afternoon.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Melbourne did have to adjust to the absence of star centre Jock Landale and Casper Ware and the troops the Kings still have fit and available came down to Melbourne on a mission.

Ware hit three triples in the first quarter as the Kings were up 31-20 at quarter-time and then Sydney blew the game wide open once again to open the second half with a 15-2 that forced United coach Dean Vickerman to burn two timeouts.

However, the second one did the trick and from the moment the Kings led 61-54 three minutes into the second half, Melbourne took over the contest as they simply were fresher, healthier and had too many weapons for a Sydney team who threw everything at them.

United would outscore the Kings 49 points 17 the rest of the way to end up winning by 25 and make it 11 straight wins, with that streak starting after a loss in Sydney to the Kings by 28 points back on March 19.

The Kings now slip to 14-13 on the season and are clinging to a spot still in the top four as the race for third and fourth heats up.

In the absence of Jock Landale for Melbourne, Jo Lual-Acuil stood up tremendously in the starting five role with 20 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

Chris Goulding caught fire in the first half with 16 of his first 21 points to keep Melbourne in the game to go with four rebounds and four assists.

Scotty Hopson came to life impressively for United too finishing with 18 points while Mason Peatling contributed 12 points and seven rebounds, Yudai Baba 11 points and two steals, and Sam McDaniel eight points. Mitch McCarron had eight assists, seven rebounds and two blocked shots too.

United coach Dean Vickerman was happy with the way his team responded to what the Kings threw at them in either half to be able to pull away in the finish.

"Both the second and fourth quarter were massive for us. We got ourselves down 11 and Casper was pretty good, but we did a better job there in the second term and we kept the pace pretty high," Vickerman said.

"Us playing at a higher tempo wore them down a little bit and we saw that in the second quarter and the fourth quarter. We then go on a run there, 18-2, to close out the game and we got good contributions from a lot of people. 

"When we see five people in double-figures and we win the rebound count are good signs, but we still want to be better at that going into a Perth game. 

"Our points in the paint and percentage in the paint was outstanding so it's good that we can continue to find different ways to score the basketball, and find different paces to play at."

Casper Ware put up 15 first half points for Sydney and finished with 25 to go with three assists but he needed a partner in crime and didn’t quite have one with Brad Newley the latest key player missing for the Kings joining Didi Louzada, DJ Vasiljevic, Xavier Cooks and Angus Glover.

Daniel Kickert did finish with 13 points, Craig Moller 12 (11 rebounds) and Shaun Bruce 10 (five assists). But with Melbourne missing Landale, the Kings would have wanted more than the combined 14 points and eight rebounds on 5/14 shooting from Jarell Martin and Jordan Hunter. 

Kings coach Adam Forde was certainly making no excuses after the match.

"It was embarrassing and I'm glad the scoreboards shows it. It was a game of runs but Melbourne went on a 17-0 run to finish out the game and that's how we played," Forde said.

"We needed that and I don’t know if it's us falling in love with the headlines or what it is, but there's slippage. There's slippage in our training, in the coaching staff, in the extended staff and in the playing group, and that's the result. That's exactly what we needed."

Sydney started the game catching fire with 5/7 from three-point range in the opening quarter. Casper Ware nailed three of them himself and then when he found Shaun Bruce in the corner just on quarter-time, Sydney was up 31-20.

Melbourne quickly turned the tide with a blistering start to the second quarter starting with the first seven points, and ending up with a 16-4 run to turn that into a lead. By half-time, United had gathered enough momentum to lead 52-46.

The Kings regrouped at half-time and Ware came out to hit a quick three and then Jordan Hunter threw down a dunk to force Vickerman into a timeout. Ware then came out to hit two more buckets before Bruce and Craig Moller drained threes to give Sydney a 15-2 start to the half and to lead 61-54.

But another Vickerman timeout was all United needed. They came out and went on an 11-0 run capped off with a Dave Barlow three ball, and then closed the quarter with the last five points to be up 70-65.

United went on another run of 15 straight points early in the last to take the game out of reach of Sydney, and then Jo Lual-Acuil was really enjoying himself late after scoring in a one-on-one play with Daniel Kickert. 

The oldest player in the league didn’t enjoy seeing Lual-Acuil's celebrations after and bumped him to let him know, but that put the United emerging start to the line and they ended up cracking the century to with 103-78.

It sets the stage now for a tantalising top-of-the-table battle for United again at home on Wednesday night against the Perth Wildcats. 

The Kings have a bit of a break to regroup before hosting the Brisbane Bullets in a crucial battle in the top four race on Saturday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 16

MELBOURNE UNITED 103 (Goulding 21, Lual-Acuil 20, Hopson 18)

SYDNEY KINGS 78 (Ware 25, Kickert 13, Moller 12) 

BOX SCORE 

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