Hungry Jack's NBL
United Snatch Throwdown Win from Phoenix
Melbourne United has snatched victory from the jaws of what seemed certain defeat in a playoff-intensity Throwdown 98-90 win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix at John Cain Arena on Sunday.
Trailing by 12 in the final quarter, United were staring down the barrel of consecutive defeats after Thursday's loss to Perth before turning on a 28-8 run to stun their cross-town rivals.
Chris Goulding (16 points, seven rebounds) was the catalyst for the comeback, first scoring a triple that ignited a 17-3 run from United and then hitting a long-range shot from well beyond the arc in the final minute to assure his side of victory.
It was the most unlikely of victories after United coughed up their lowest scoring third quarter of the season and fell into a 12 point hole in the fourth, but they ignited from there.
While Goulding was the spark, Australian Boomer Matthew Dellavedova was the glue. The NBA championship winner put on a clinic with 19 points in the first half on his way to 22 points and four assists.
Shea Ili's 19 points came at crucial moments while Jo Lual-Acuil was critical with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Special mention has to go to Ariel Hukporti, who was vital in the comeback run on both offensive and defensive ends.
United coach Dean Vickerman praised the extra effort plays his charges put in to wrestle the ascendency back in their favour while especially happy with the efforts of Ili and Hukporti.
"The experience we have got in this group, we have been through this situation before. We knew if we could just put together consecutive stops, share the basketball and screen the way we should screen we would always give ourselves a chance," Vickerman said.
"These last two games have had a finals intensity about them. We have learned a lot about ourselves. There are things to fix and a big part of that is playing for 40 minutes, we're having a quarter where we dry up a bit right now.
"For a 19 year old kid to be put in a big situation, I thought he (Hukporti) was amazing. The three blocks that he had, the way he rebounded through that period, the presence he had at the block and making huge plays - for him to close out the game and be so effective."
Mitch Creek (27 points, six rebounds, five assists) was herculean for the Phoenix, but effectively surrendered the match when he stepped over the baseline for a technical foul. After earlier collecting an unsportsmanlike foul, it was the end of his night.
Xavier Munford was heavily productive with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists while Chinese superstar Zhou Qi had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The loss has become a recurring theme for Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell who said their late fadeouts would need to be addressed.
"It's really disappointing and its endemic of our last three performances where we had a nice little lead and were unable to hold on," Mitchell said.
"They seemed able to run us out of our structures down the stretch, it was a tremendously disappointing way to finish off the game.
"The disappointing thing is that is three times now so we have got to make changes to that. We have got to eradicate those issues from our game."
The Phoenix lost their leading rebounder Ryan Broekhoff to a shoulder injury following a collision with Dellavedova in the second quarter. He was unable to return and spent the rest of the match on the bench with his shoulder iced and arm in a sling.
"He took a hit to the AC joint and we tried to give it a go. We didn't think we would get too much out of him in the second half," Mitchell said.
"But you could see in the warmups going into the second half that he was having trouble lifting his arm. We will get the physio to work on him and see what's up."
It was a hectic start to the match but some defensive lapses in the paint from Melbourne allowed Zhou Qi to get some quality looks - including a commanding dunk - and it was South East Melbourne to open the first real advantage of the game.
A three-point play from Creek extended that lead to 20-13 but Melbourne surged their way in front before Creek quickly answered with a triple to level proceedings once again.
By the time the dust settled, it was South East Melbourne ahead 30-29 at the end of a high-scoring first quarter.
The tempo slowed in the second quarter and eventually Ryan Broekhoff managed to land one from long range and it was the Phoenix in front 40-34, prompting a Melbourne time out.
There was concern for Broekhoff who collided with a Dellavedova screen that left him clutching at his shoulder and leaving the court for assessment.
Creek was getting the job done in tough fashion, but Dellavedova was on his way to 19 first-half points and splashed a triple on the buzzer for United to lead 54-49 at the half-time break.
Creek said at half-time that they needed to "feed the big dog" in Qi and he did precisely that to open the third quarter, South East Melbourne hammering in the first nine points to take the lead once more.
Izayah Le'afa caught fire with back-to-back triples and the Phoenix could do no wrong as they extended their lead to seven which remained the three quarter-time margin.
A Xavier Munford five-point outburst pushed the Phoenix lead out to 12 and United's backs were firmly against the wall early in the fourth.
Melbourne needed a spark and they found one in their talisman Goulding who splashed a vital triple. It ignited United and they crept their way back into the contest with Ariel Hukporti cutting the lead back to just five.
Then Creek surrendered an unsportsmanlike foul on a breakaway Hukporti and suddenly Melbourne had levelled the scores off the back of a Dellavedova triple.
Enter Goulding. He exploded to life to bury Phoenix and ensure his side finishes the round at the top of the #NBL22 ladder.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 15
SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 90 (Creek 27, Munford 24, Qi 16)
MELBOURNE UNITED 98 (Dellavedova 22, Ili 19, Goulding 16)