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NBL 2014/15 Round 15 Preview: United seeking atonement against Breakers
New Zealand Breakers vs. Melbourne United
Sunday 18th January, 2015- 4.00pm (local time)
Tickets: click here
Odds: New Zealand $1.40, Melbourne $2.95
New Zealand kept their win streak going in Round 14, sweeping the round with two hard fought victories over Wollongong. Despite the top vs. bottom clashes, the Breakers needed overtime on Thursday to win before defeating the Hawks by 2 on Sunday. New Zealand’s four game winning streak has kept Cairns at bay in the race for first position and they have an easy schedule for the remainder of the regular season, with just seven matches in the final six rounds. Five of those, including this weekend’s clash against Melbourne, will be played at home where they have a seven game winning streak and own a league best 8-1 record.
Melbourne hit a major road bump with a loss to Adelaide last round, giving up a 12 point three-quarter time lead to lose by 2. A victory would have seen them open a four game gap between them and fifth place, essentially sealing the top four. Instead, their advantage over Adelaide has been cut to one win with nine games remaining. As stated by Steve Chalmers in his Four for Fighting article (https://pickandroll.com.au/2015-nbl-playoff-race/), United play an extra game on the road compared to Adelaide but both sides will face just three top four teams. A victory against the Breakers would see Melbourne re-gain that cushion that they gave up last round.
New Zealand’s shooting guard, Corey Webster, has scored 19+ five times this season but three of those games have come against Melbourne. His 14.4 point average is boosted to 22 when playing United while he has shot 13-25 for 52% from the three point line. Although the Breakers impressively have four players averaging over 10 points a game, they still look to Webster for consistency. In their five losses this year, he has shot just 34% while hitting 42% in their 16 wins. His performance must be strong at both ends of the court as Jordan McRae has also enjoyed their battles, averaging 22.7 points himself.
What to Watch For
Melbourne are at their best when pushing the tempo of the match with the likes of McRae and Stephen Dennis running in the open court but this game style is fraught with danger. United average 12.1 turnovers a game and have been forced into 13.3 per game against the Breakers. In their only victory against New Zealand, they gave up just 6 points off those mistakes but have surrendered 17 and 13 respectively in the two losses. These turnovers must be curbed if Melbourne are to be a force in the playoffs and today’s game provides the chance to improve that aspect of their game against the elite of the competition.
This clash between Melbourne and New Zealand is the last of their regular season meetings, with the Breakers currently leading 2-1. Their first loss of the year was handed to them by United when they fell by 21 in Round 2 but since then, they have been victorious in Rounds 7 and 10. The visitors will be desperate to respond after their collapse against Adelaide last weekend and must prove they are deserving of their fourth position. In what will be Mika Vukona’s 200th consecutive game, New Zealand have enough to play for as they look to retain top spot on the ladder and should record their eighth straight win at home.
New Zealand by 7