New Zealand Breakers vs. Melbourne United
MATCH UP STATS
New Zealand Breakers vs. Melbourne United
Season record:New Zealand Breakers: 13-14Melbourne United: 13-13
Last 5 results:New Zealand Breakers: WLLWWMelbourne United: WWLLW
Line betting:New Zealand Breakers: -3.5 with Sportsbet.com.auMelbourne United: +3.5 with Sportsbet.com.au
Friday, February 10, 2016, 5.30pm AEDT, North Shore Events Centre, Auckland, New Zealand, watch on Fox Sports.
THIS crazy NBL season is potentially the closest sporting competition we’ve ever seen in Australia – or anywhere else around the world.
And the New Zealand Breakers and Melbourne United will make it even more interesting on Friday night when they go head-to-head in a do or die clash that will have huge ramifications for both teams.
To give you an idea of just how tight this competition is, five teams are locked on 13 wins each, heading into this weekend’s final round.
They run from third to seventh in the competition, with only the bottom-placed Brisbane Bullets out of the playoff picture.
The Breakers – just above the Bullets in seventh, kept their thin hopes alive on the weekend – knocking over the best team in the competition in the Adelaide 36ers – by a point, no less.
That’s right, the near bottom team beat the top team in the second last round of the year.
And United – sixth before Monday night, killed off the Sydney Kings – in Sydney, no less – to leap into third spot – sending the Kings from third to sixth. Got all that?
The Breakers led the Sixers by 17 points early in the third term, but absolutely stunk it up after the main rest, squandering the lead to let the Sixers back in.
Thirteen point down at the final break, New Zealand’s season was all but over.
But, with a little help from the referees, they clawed their way back into it and, somehow, some way, managed to steal a one point win.
Sharp shooting veteran Kirk Penney led from the front, dropping 21 points with three treys, while import Kevin Dillard hit a trio of key free throws to tie the scores up late on his way to 20 points, including a perfect seven for seven from the charity stripe.
that pair was aided by 15 off the bench from Rob Loe, while Alex Pledger monstered the Sixers on the inside, ripping down 14 boards, including six offensive, while finishing one point off a double double.
It was a bitter contest that left fans – and ejected Sixers coach Joey Wright – seething, but also kept the Breakers sputtering season alive.
At that point, the Breakers had headed United in the standings but, up against the second placed Illawarra Hawks, Melbourne would not be denied.
They led all the way in a 78-72 win, former NBA man Josh Boone coming off the bench to wreak havoc with 20 points and 12 rebounds, leading the way after last week inking with United for the remainder of the season.
His almost perfect 10 for 13 shooting night made up for inefficient performances from stars Chris Goulding – 18 points at 36 per cent – and Casper Ware – 16 at just 33 per cent.
Ware added seven dimes to his buckets, while David Andersen added 10 off the bench, including a pair of huge treys that were reminiscent of his big night earlier in the round.
It was a huge win for a United side that has – for the first time this season – had every key player on its roster healthy and available.
“Injuries are part of the business, but we’ve really struggled since pre-season with getting the same people on the floor,” assistant coach Simon Mitchell said.
“We actually had our first training session about two weeks ago where we had everybody on the floor at the same time all season.
“Now we’ve had two weeks to start to build an on-court relationship with each other and I think we’re starting to see the benefits of that.
“The beauty of our position now is in this dogfight for a playoffs spot we control our destiny.
“If we win our games, we’re in. Where we land, we don’t really care.”
What it all means is that this game has huge ramifications for both clubs.
Both of these teams absolutely have to win here if they are going to make the playoffs. If United loses, they will be in big trouble, because the Breakers will own the season tie breaker between the two teams. That means if they lose, but still beat the Wildcats in the last game of the round, they could still miss the playoffs, because the Breakers would leap ahead of them and leave them in trouble if other results go against them.
The Breakers need results to go their way as well. Beat United, then hope teams above them like the Wildcats and Taipans get knocked off.
It’s an unenviable position to be in for either team, but at least there is hope, right?
Match result: Melbourne United to win ($2.25 with Sportsbet.com.au)
Line betting tip: Melbourne United +3.5 ($1.81 with Sportbet.com.au)
The smart pick here might be the New Zealand Breakers, but, here’s the thing. United has not once faced them with a full team. At various times, Chris Goulding, David Andersen and Todd Blanchfield have been missing. They also haven’t seen the beast in the middle Boone. They also have not been this desperate. And, over the past two weeks, we have seen what a desperate United can do. After almost looking a shoe in for the playoffs two weeks ago, the Breakers churned out back to back losses, before beating the Sixers. Their hopes here are slim at best and we think the healthy United should be to strong, even with the trip across the ditch.
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