NBL 2014/15 Round 13: Worthington, United dash Sydney's hopes

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Coming off back to back to back overtime games, Melbourne United have finally broken the tight schedule with an 82-68 victory over the Sydney Kings at the Qantas Credit Union Arena in Sydney on Friday night.

With huge repercussions on the line in this contest, mainly the fact that the Kings had the ability to close the gap on Melbourne for the final playoff spot; United were able to close out a gutsy performance on the road in which all 10 United players did their job.

Speaking of the team performance, Co-captain Mark Worthington led from the front with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while he had a plethora of other big names who contributed.

Daniel Kickert (15 points, 8 rebounds) and Jordan McRae (14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) were the next best for the visitors, with the team shooting a respectable 44% from the floor, a stat that was above 50% for most of the night.

With Angus Brandt sitting out due to the knee injury he suffered in the Kings’ previous game, Sydney was led by returnee Josh Childress (15 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists) and fellow forward Tom Garlepp. While Childress took his time finding his rhythm, it was Garlepp who kept the Kings in the game early on, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds.

Melbourne controlled the tempo for most of the game, jumping out of the gates to set up the contest in their favour. Despite letting their style of play slip away in the third quarter, which allowed the margin to be brought back to as little as a point, United had great poise in settling at both ends of the floor to extend their lead once again.

While most expected a high scoring shoot-out, it was completely the opposite when the game kicked off, as both teams made a real emphasis on the defensive end.

With points coming at a premium, it was Melbourne who found outlets early, going to Stephen Dennis in the low post and penetrating the distinct size advantage he had over Jason Cadee.

From there, a baseline drive from Jordan McRae had the home crowd silenced after he blew by Childress for a nifty reverse lay-up to take an early 10-6 lead.

Melbourne’s five assists to just one in the opening quarter was largely due to Kendrick Perry’s isolation plays which saw him notch five quick points for the Kings heading into quarter time eight points down.

The short break between quarters didn’t help the home side, with their Captain Ben Madgen going down to an ankle injury mid-way through the second quarter. Fortunately, he was able to return shortly after a quick stint in the changerooms.

Offense started to creep up on both teams, as Daryl Corletto found his range with two long bombs, before a nice back door cut by Dennis was rewarded by one of Mark Worthington’s six assists.

The Kings stayed in the contest thanks to their rebounding; something that has been missing for the majority of the season. A total of 19 offensive boards were collected by the home side, however their accuracy from the floor wasn’t all that flash.

A putrid 2-20 for the game from downtown failed to peg back the deficit which had reached 16 late in the first half after an 8-0 United run capped off by a Worthington triple.

Josh Childress came out of half time like a man on a mission, knowing that his team needed him if they were to be any chance of a playoff berth. With the tempo rising, Childress started to get to the rim and finish with authority.

With the margin back to within one, the Kings’ free throw shooting went wayward, which allowed Melbourne to regain their composure and find a five point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

In what was an ugly opening seven minutes to the fourth, with both teams scoring a combined 10 points, Worthington once again stepped up to the plate with a crucial defensive rebound which resulted in his own turnaround jumper at the other end to put the Kings in a real hole for their playoff aspirations.

Sydney Kings 68 (Garlepp 18, Childress 15, Ellis 12)

Melbourne United 82 (Worthington 18, Kickert 15, McRae 14)

@ Qantas Credit Union Arena