Sunday, November 22, 3pm AEDT, Vector Arena, New Zealand, watch on Nine Network
New Zealand Breakers: Third
Melbourne United: Top
New Zealand Breakers: 5-4
Melbourne United: 9-2
Last five games
New Zealand Breakers: WWLWW
Melbourne United: WWWWL
THE uncrowned best team in the NBL is all of a sudden looking shaky as it prepares to renew hostilities with a date with the third placed defending champions.
And if the last encounter between the New Zealand Breakers and Melbourne United is anything to go by, this one is shaping up to be a doozy.
In that match up, just over a week ago, Melbourne won in a nail biter, 87-86.
That was at the United den at Hisense Arena, but this time they have to cross the ditch and take on the Breakers on their home turf in New Zealand.
The soaring Breakers have won five of their last six games, with the only blemish coming by that aforementioned point to United.
And the news only got worse for Melbourne United last night, as it dropped it’s second game in a row – against the bottom placed Townsville Crocodiles – after they had been undefeated until the Cairns Taipans ended their nine game winning streak last weekend.
The two teams feature the cream of the crop of Aussie basketball talent.
WilliamHill.com.au’s Tim Ashworth said the money was evenly split between the two teams.
“But more bets have been taken on the Breakers,” Ashworth said.
“The Kiwi side at home are $1.67 frontrunners, with Melbourne $2.20.
“The biggest bet is almost $300 on United with the start, but punters are seeing value in picking their own lines.
“New Zealand +2.5 is $1.45 with WilliamHill.com.au and United with the same start is $1.90.”
Both teams played midweek, with United suffering its second loss on the trot after dropping their first game of the season against, 82-70.
The Townsville Crocodiles – missing star import and MVP Brian Conklin and the giant Luke Schenscher – came to Melbourne on Thursday night, and left with the points 82-78, in a huge upset.
United scored just 31 points in the first half and never really got it going until the final term, but the Crocs were able to hang on.
MVP favourite Chris Goulding bounced back from a poor performance with 22 points, big man Daniel Kickert had 17 points and seven boards and import Stephen Holt had 15 points with eight assists, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Crocs.
“I thought Townsville played a great game and they shot the ball really well,” United coach Dean Demopoulos said.
“They beat us to the ball most of the time and they actually appeared to play harder.
“My hat is off to them and we are not the first quote ‘good team’ they have beaten, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.
“I’m not surprised by it at all as everybody in this league is capable of beating everybody else on any day.
“That’s what happens when you get outplayed — you lose.”
The Breakers are yet to beaten at home and did ok away on Wednesday night, defeating the Sydney Kings and their much talked about import Al Harrington, 86-74, to register their first road win of the season.
Superstar Corey Webster led the Breakers’ scoring with 17 points, and he was joined by five of his team mates in double figures. Thomas Abercrombie smashed the glass to pull down 15 rebounds to go with his 11 points.
“That wasn’t pretty but we closed the game out well and weathered a couple of storms,” assistant coach Paul Henare said.
“It was just good to get the monkey off the back really.
While Cedric Jackson had a near triple double with seven assists and seven boards, complementing his 14 points, he sat out the last seven minutes after banging his knee during the match, leaving doubts over whether he will suit up against United.
“I think he’ll be all right,” assistant coach Paul Henare said.
“There was a solid impact with knee to the ground, which was probably a best-case scenario.
“It’s not a twist, and I don’t think there’s any structural damage.
“When he came off we were all a little worried, but he crept down the bench with a couple of minutes to go and said ‘if you need me I can go’, and that’s always a good sign.”
The win will only inject confidence into a Breakers’ side that was so near, yet so far when it last met United.
That one point loss snapped a three game winning streak, but it might have been different, had the referees let them play, rather than calling a dubious unsportsmanlike foul on star Corey Webster that allowed United to ice the game.
In that game, Cedric Jackson recorded a rare triple double with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in just 36 minutes, while Abercrombie shot the lights out with 24 and eight boards in his 200th game.
United countered with 21 points apiece from Goulding and Holt, who added seven assists.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman admits the re-match will be “more than another game, for a few reasons”.
“We have a great home record going this year, something the boys pride themselves on,” Vickerman said.
“And for sure after what happened in Melbourne – they believe there is a little bit of payback.”
Match winner: New Zealand Breakers ($1.67 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Line: Melbourne United +2.5 ($1.90 with WilliamHill.com.au)
We let home town advantage sway us last time these two teams played and we were on the money. Melbourne United won on their home court, but the Breakers kept it close enough and held the line. Despite the fact the Breakers look like they are in better form, these are two of the three best teams in the competition and we expect this one to be close. Both teams will have played already this round when it tips off, with the Breakers enjoying an extra day of break after travelling home from Sydney. Home court advantage is always big, but one thing that stands in the Breakers way is MVP favourite Chris Goulding. Goulding had an off night in the loss to the Taipans, but roared back with a vengeance against the Crocodiles. If he goes off like he did against the Breakers last time, it gives them a legitimate chance. This one is a toss of the coin, we think it will be close, but we think the Breakers will just prevail on the back of Webster, and the two Jacksons.