Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
MATCH UP STATS
Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Season record:Sydney Kings: 13-13Melbourne United: 11-13
Last 5 games:Sydney Kings: WWLLLMelbourne United: LLWLL
Line betting:Sydney Kings: -2.5 ($1.90 with WilliamHill)Melbourne United: +2.5 ($1.90 with WilliamHill)
Saturday, February 4, 2016, 7.30pm AEDT, Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, watch on Fox Sports.
AS far as season defining games go, this is do or die for Melbourne United and a juicy prospect for the Sydney Kings.
It is, without doubt, the closest NBL season ever.
While the Adelaide 36ers are runaway leaders at the top of the table. Only three wins separate second from the bottom. It would mean that id the Illawarra Hawks lost all their remaining games, they could, conceivably, finish on the bottom, depending on how other teams go.
And so it is for United that they have to at least win three of their remaining four contests if they are to be any hope of making the playoffs.
It starts in Sydney on Saturday night.
But it won’t be easy.
The Kings snapped a three game losing streak over the weekend, squeaking past the Brisbane Bullets 80-77 and then ploughing through the New Zealand Breakers 84-57.
It was the best they have looked for weeks against the Breakers, with an even spread of seven players with at least eight points, headed by import Greg Whittington’s 16, to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Kings led at every change and outscored the Breakers 26-7 in a remarkable third term.
Against the Bullets, they shared it around too. With star Brad Newley still out of action, they have turned to a sharing is caring style of play, with Kevin Lisch leading the way, dropping 23 points and six assists, heading four players in double digits.
It was a watershed weekend for the Kings, going from being in danger of missing the playoffs all together, to second on the ladder and looking every bit the lock.
They went from 10-6 to 11-13 in a horror form slump, but squared the ledger on the weekend, after Gaze affirmed his mob were still genuine title contenders.
“The guys knew the urgency of the situation and they stepped up,” Gaze said.
“But we can’t enjoy this win for very long because we’re in the same situation next week and the week after that.
“We’re in a dogfight.”
Gaze said Newley could be back against United, boosting his side’s hopes.
“Brad is a very strong chance to play next week and he’d be a great addition to have back in there,” he said.
United has lost four of its past five after looking like it would cruise into the playoffs, slipping to second bottom of the ladder.
But hope springs eternal and, given the tight nature of this NBL season, a win here would put them right back in the playoff calculations.
The Melbourne side has not won for more than two weeks, and was hammered by the Brisbane Bullets 88-71, before losing a heartbreaking decider to the Perth Wildcats, 73-71.
As they have done since they were teamed up when United decided to sack import guard Cedric Jackson, Chris Goulding and Casper Ware led the way for Melbourne against Perth, the Australian Boomer dropping 19 points, while the former NBA man had 16 points and five assists to continue his reign at the top of the competition’s scoring leader board – at 22.36 per game.
United had a chance to win, or tie the scores, after Wildcats import Casey Prather missed a pair of free throws that would have iced it.
But David Barlow’s late three point try fell short and the ensuing put back by former NBA centre Josh Boone failed, consigning United to defeat.
The good news this week out of United is that Boone, who is best known for his time with the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets in the NBA, will stay on for the rest of the season, after they cut injured import Devin Williams.
Boone is a defensive and rebounding machine, second in the league behind only Brisbane’s Torrey Craig, with 7.63 per game.
United actually has two extra games on the Kings, so they could, if results went their way, leap frog them into second place, depending on how each team finishes the season.
Under fire United coach Dean Demopoulos knows the gravity of the situation ahead of the game.
“It’s no secret our backs are against the wall and we need to win basketball games and that’s our intention,” he said.
That’s stating the obvious, but can they do it?
Line betting tip: Melbourne United +2.5 ($1.90 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Gut feeling, pie in the sky, call it what you will, but Melbourne United is winning this game. There is too much on the line for them not to. Despite their woeful recent form, they have beaten the Kings in each of their past two encounters, the last in Sydney, and they will take serious confidence from that. Something has to give in Melbourne and, if Chris Goulding and company want to be taken seriously, they simply must win this game. There is no doubting they have the talent to do it, but can they pull together and produce something special in the closing weeks of the season? If they do, they can win the title, if they don’t they will be firmly rooted to the bottom of the NBL ladder.
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