A scintillating second half performance from Melbourne has seen them break their duck against Cairns, winning 91-76 after losing two games to the Taipans earlier this season. The match was predominantly played in half-court sets for the first two quarters, which suited Cairns perfectly. However, coming out of the main break, United flicked the switch and got their running game going as Mark Worthington forced himself to the basket. Jordan McRae and Stephen Dennis followed suit, moving away from their mid-range jumpers and isolation plays. A baseline cut from McRae that led to a two handed dunk exemplified the type of basketball that United’s two imports can play and perhaps this match will give them the confidence to stay away from settling for outside shots. Trailing by 11 with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Melbourne went on to out-score the ladder leaders 52-31 in the second half. They defied a -20 disadvantage in points off turnovers by shooting 53% from the field and hitting 14-28 from the three point line for the match. The Taipans began the game with a clear intention to attack Melbourne’s front court, feeding the ball through Matt Burston who was happy to take the points or be fouled. His interior play helped the Taipans to a 14-6 edge in the paint by quarter-time while their zone defence restricted United from their desired running game. That static offence continued to plague Melbourne in the second term as the deficit drifted to 12 points. Cairns’ ploy to attack the United bigs paid off as Daniel Kickert, Lucas Walker and Chris Patton all fell into foul trouble by half-time. Hitting 4-5 from downtown for the quarter was their only saving grace as they managed to trim Cairns’ lead to 6 by the main break. There were no signs of the Melbourne onslaught that was to come when Cam Gliddon caught fire for the Taipans at the start of the third term. He poured in 10 points in the opening four minutes, showcasing his long range shooting ability while also proving his quickness as he blew by McRae several times. With the shot clock running down, Scottie Wilbeken then hit an off balance three from straight away that banked in off the backboard. That stroke of luck seemed to point towards an inevitable third straight victory over Melbourne but the sudden tempo change turned the game on its head as United christened Margaret Court Arena in style. Speaking of the victory, Coach Darryl McDonald noted the change in game-play after half-time.
In the first half we weren’t playing our type of basketball. One problem we’ve had all year is offensive rebounds. I want our guys running but it starts at the defensive end.
Returning from an elbow injury, Worthington was inspirational for the home side, collecting a double-double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals. He was at his niggling best, ruffling the feathers of Wilbeken and drawing an offensive foul on Mitch Young in the third term, helping to trigger the game winning run. After the match, the co-captain spoke about a winning mentality.
Watching the Perth game at home it felt like they left the door open but the guys didn’t want to kick the door down. We’re slowly starting to figure that out.
McRae added 21 points at 53% and 7 boards while Dennis and Kickert (3-3 from beyond the arc) scored 15 apiece. Melbourne’s tough schedule continues as they head to Adelaide on Saturday to play their third game in seven days but this performance shows they are up for the fight. Cairns have now lost two straight after starting the season 6-0 and although the panic button won’t be pressed yet, their reliance on Wilbeken is becoming a concern. Gliddon was impressive with 19 points, Torrey Craig had 9 and 8 rebounds off the bench and Cam Tragardh was as industrious as ever with 15. Wilbeken (15 points on 5-17 shooting) struggled with Melbourne going under his screens though and he could not hurt them with his long range shooting. In both of the Taipans losses, the guard has toiled from the field but with an eight day break until their next game, the ladder leaders have time to regroup. Melbourne United 91 (McRae 21, Worthington 20, Kickert 15) Cairns Taipans 76 (Gliddon 19, Wilbeken 15, Tragardh 15) @ Margaret Court Arena